Memorial Day storms produced more than half-dozen tornadoes
National Weather Service staff confirmed Thursday that tornadoes touched down across northern Minnesota.
DULUTH — The destructive Memorial Day storms that ripped through Northern Minnesota produced at least seven tornadoes.
Staff at National Weather Service offices in Duluth and Chanhassen, Minnesota, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, confirmed Wednesday that tornadoes touched down in or spun into several Minnesota counties, producing brutal winds and rain that severely damaged homes and businesses and cut electrical service to thousands of Minnesotans. Workers at other regional weather service offices had yet to publish similar findings.
In Deer River, Itasca County, a 150-yard-wide EF-1 tornado traveled about 2.5 miles out of town, flattening garages, knocking over trees, and uprooting fences. It damaged a pair of downtown businesses badly enough that they may need to be demolished, according to the city’s police chief. An EF-1 tornado produces wind speeds of 86-110 mph.
A second, 500-yard-wide EF-1 tornado that touched down in Poplar Township, Cass County, traveled about 4.3 miles northeast from a cemetery, across state Highway 64, and into a wetland that was inaccessible to Weather Service investigators. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday the most extensive storm damage it observed occurred in Poplar and Byron townships, including impacts to several structures, a grain silo and two center pivot irrigation systems.
A third confirmed tornado touched down in Todd County just south of Eagle Bend and traveled about 13 miles to the northeast, ending southwest of Staples. The EF-1 tornado reached maximum wind speeds of 95 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
The Chanhassen office confirmed tornado No. 4 touched down Monday in Forada, Douglas County, Minnesota, and No. 5 did the same near Plato in McLeod, Carver and Wright counties.
Weather Service staff said they were tentatively treating a sixth tornado that traveled through Chippewa, Swift, Stevens and Pope counties as a separate tornado, but its endpoint is relatively close to the starting point of the Forada twister , leading them to suspect it may have been one continuous funnel.
A seventh, 30-yard-wide tornado touched down south of Artichoke Lake in rural Big Stone County, traveling about 2.5 miles before dissipating. It damaged trees, blew out some windows and damaged a shed.
The Forada tornado was particularly dramatic and rated as an EF-2, which means the tornado produced strong winds ranging from 113-157 mph while causing considerable damage. It destroyed 29 homes and damaged another 70, but the people in its path reported minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, according to a Douglas County Emergency Management official. Contractors, insurance workers, and volunteers were allowed this week into the Forada area to clear trees and other debris, but officials there asked everyone else to steer clear of the area.
Poplar Township farmer Dale Wells said it took all of a minute for ferocious winds produced by the tornado to collapse a barn and tear roofs from sheds on his 80-acre property, along with taking out a large number of trees. A limb also fell on his home, he said.
Wells, 42, said none of the livestock on his property suffered injuries and he and his 15-year-old daughter rode out the storm in the basement.
“It was raining kind of sideways and the wind was blowing and it was turning kind of greenish-blue, so we went to the basement and it pretty much just lasted about a minute and it was over,” Wells said Wednesday during a phone interview. “There’s trees down all over. I just looked out the window on the door and you could see the barn was gone and a couple big trees in the yard in that direction were down.”
Reporter Celeste Edenloff of the Alexandria Echo Press contributed to this report.