Updated: Tornado-like damage hits northwest Alexandria w/video
The sound of chainsaws could be heard loud and clear along Wallace Street, Woodcrest Road, Donna Drive and others in northwest Alexandria on Wednesday morning leading some to believe a tornado had hit the area.
Numerous large ash and basswood trees were uprooted, some of them lying on top of a house, camper, vehicles and other property.
The scene, described as a war zone by people in the neighborhood, was left after a monstrous storm hit the Alexandria area late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning.
After surveying the scene of two properties along Wallace Street, Douglas County Chief Deputy Brad Lake said the way the tree limbs were twisted and uprooted indicated a tornado.
“Straight line winds wouldn’t do that,” Lake said. “It was like the trees were picked up and not just blown over.”
According to Shawn DeVinny, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Chanhassen, the storm that hit the Alexandria area was not tornadic. He said it did look more like straight line winds.
“It can get complicated real fast,” DeVinny said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It’s kind of like solving a mystery.”
DeVinny said there were reports of lots of trees down and winds of up to 65-70 miles per hour in Douglas County as part of the system that hit eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. Garfield and Lake Brophy areas of Douglas County also were hard hit by the storm.30 seconds at most
Tom Egan, Douglas County communications supervisor, is normally on the other end of storms as a dispatcher and weather watcher. When storms hit, he is usually glued to the computer monitor, communicating with deputies and other weather watchers making sure everyone stays safe.
But the tables were turned this time.
Egan and his wife, Kim, live along Wallace Street.
“When I looked out the window, I saw white,” Egan said. “The white could have been just the rain, but I saw debris. It was nasty. I couldn’t see the trees in front of my house.”
Egan said it all happened within 15-20 seconds, maybe 30 at the most.
A few minutes before midnight, Kyle Fluto of Alexandria was driving near the neighborhood where Egan lives. The storm forced him to pull over on Lochmist Lane.
“I saw a wall of white and then there was lightning and the whole wall went blue,” Fluto said. “It was crazy. Through the streak of lightning, it looked like a funnel cloud and it turned blue.”
Fluto, who admitted that it was a little bit scary, said he stayed in his car the whole time, which he said was all of 20-30 seconds.
“It just looked like there was a bunch of clouds in the middle of the road,” Fluto said. “It was seriously crazy.”
Rain reported from the Alexandria Airport to the weather service measured 1.61 inches and the rain report from Clayton Lewis, a weather watcher in Carlos, measured 1.55 inches. Egan reported more than 3 inches of rain at his house.
Damage like that in northwest Alexandria, said DeVinny, can look like it came from a tornado but actually come from straight line winds of similar speed.
The weather service issued its first severe thunderstorm warning for high winds at around 11:15 p.m. for this area, according to DeVinny. He said, however, that the center had issued thunderstorm watches all evening.A bare yard
As Egan surveyed the damage once the sun rose, he estimated that he lost 30 or more trees.
“I really don’t know how many we lost, I kept losing track as I was walking around,” he said. “All I know is that my yard is now going to be bare.”
Some of the trees, both Egan and Lake estimated, were anywhere from 100 to 150 years old. Egan said he doesn’t think his neighbors, Pete and Sue Sarberg, who live next to his empty lot, have any trees left either. One of the trees in the front yard missed their house, but ended up on the truck parked in the driveway.
Lake said that there was plenty of storm damage throughout the county, but that the hardest hit area, where he said the possible tornado touched, was a “small isolated area.” If it was a tornado, he said, it didn’t stay down too long.
As Egan grabbed his chainsaw, trying to figure out where to begin, he muttered, “It is going to take months to clean up all this damage.”Power outages
Scott Deitz, operations manager with Alexandria Light and Power, said the first call about a power outage came into the office around midnight. He said two big areas lost power, affecting about 1,000 customers.
The affected areas were along County Road 22 into Tabbert’s Addition in northwest Alexandria up to Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center and then going east from Third and Fourth avenues to McKay Avenue near the Oak Knoll area by Discovery Middle School.
Most customers were only without power for about an hour and a half, said Deitz, but there were some individual customers who were out a lot longer. The individual outages were because of downed trees, broken poles and wires that ended up being ripped away from homes.
In all, Deitz said seven technicians worked for about 12 hours to restore power.
“We actually got by pretty good,” Deitz said of the power outages.
Other areas, such as Detroit Lakes, did not. He said he got a call from the power company up there for mutual aid. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to send anyone, he said, but Moorhead-area technicians were able to help out.