Update, 10 a.m. Friday: Storm wind gust hit 87 mph, causing widespread damage (w/ video)
A home at the corner of Donna Drive and Meadow Lane was ripped apart.
ALEXANDRIA — A severe thunderstorm with wind gusts of 80 miles per hour ripped through Douglas County Thursday night, May 12.
Accompanied by sheets of rain, the winds toppled decades-old trees, power lines, transformers, boat lifts, sheds and other structures.
One of the hardest hit areas was South Darling Drive NW, where houses were flattened, boats turned over, roofs torn away, a camper tipped over, and vehicles were damaged.
The National Weather Service is sending a team to the Alexandria area today to survey the reports of damage it's received. A wind gust of 87 mph was reported by a sensor on I-94 near Alexandria, and a wind gust of 72 mph was recorded at the Alexandria airport Thursday night, according to Michelle Margraf, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities.
Damage to buildings and/or downed trees were reported in Alexandria, Garfield, Osakis and Carlos.
The National Weather Service will have more information after the survey is completed.
Along Donna Drive, Darling Drive and West Meadow Lane in northwest Alexandria, dozens of trees in soggy soil were uprooted. Many of them toppled into the street.
A home at the corner of Donna Drive and West Meadow Lane was ripped apart. The wind blew away the roof, some siding and collapsed a garage. Trees and debris fell on the vehicles inside. The homeowner, who didn't want to be identified, said he and his wife were in the basement when the winds picked up around 7:15 p.m. and they were not injured.
The homeowner had just installed new siding and windows a few months ago.
Alexandria firefighters were called to that area and removed a large tree that had toppled onto another house.
Local law enforcement agencies were busy throughout the storm and its aftermath. Between 7 p.m. and midnight, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Alexandria Police Department and Osakis Police Department responded to about 40 calls for service related to the storm — trees falling on electric lines, downed power poles, trees blocking roads, sparking power lines, property damage, semis in the median on I-94, jack-knifed semis, electrical fires, boat lifts blown from a cabin onto a road, and more.
Travel was also affected, with trees blocking roads and streets. Also, shortly before 9 p.m., eastbound Interstate 94 was temporarily closed near Alexandria due to overturned semis from high winds. The Minnesota Department of Transportation said motorists should use Exit 103 and follow the signed interstate alternate routes.
Other damage reports from throughout the county came across the police scanner.
At 7:01 p.m., the National Weather Service and Douglas County Code Red issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Douglas, Pope, Chippewa, Stevens, Swift and Kandiyohi counties until 7:45 p.m.
At 6:59 p.m., severe thunderstorms were located along a line extending from 6 miles west of Herman to near Kensington to near Glenwood to near Cosmos, moving northeast at 70 mph.
The storm hit Alexandria at about 7:10 p.m. and then moved on to Evansville and Brandon.
The National Weather Service warned that the storms for Alexandria and Willmar were destructive and packed winds of 80 mph. It said flying debris would be dangerous to those caught without shelter and mobile homes may be heavily damaged.
"Expect considerable damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles," the National Weather Service said. "Extensive tree damage and power outages are likely."
Other locations impacted by these severe thunderstorms included Glenwood Airport, Swift Falls, Alberta, Garfield, Willmar Airport, Villard, Blomkest, Fish Lake, Miltona and Holmes City.
The storms also posed a destructive hail threat, the National Weather Service said.
A tornado watch remained in effect until midnight for central and west central Minnesota.