URGENT Tornado Damages Several Hundred Houses; No Serious Injuries Reported
MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (AP) _ One of a series of tornadoes that hit the Twin Cities metropolitan area touched down in this suburb Thursday night, destroying up to 10 houses and damaging several hundred others, authorities said.
The damage in Maple Grove, about 15 miles north of Minneapolis, was estimated at $4 million to $5 million, said Irene Koski, assistant to the city administrator.
No serious injuries were immediately reported, but some people were reported cut by breaking and flying glass as the tornadoes swept through an area north of the Twin Cities.
Civil defense sirens sounded about 20 minutes before the tornado struck Maple Grove, giving people time to take shelter, said Lt. Ron Markgraf of the city police department.
″It was probably luck,″ he said. ″We were very, very fortunate.″
Damage was concentrated in a six-block area in the bedroom community that police blocked off to prevent looting, he said.
Northern States Power spokesman Tom Bushee said the damage was the worst he had seen in eight years with the utility.
″Thousands of customers are out,″ he said, adding that the utility had no estimates on the extent of the power outage caused by the storms.
″It got real black and it just sucked up debris from the ground,″ said Troy Gobel, 20, a cook at Billy’s Lighthouse restaurant in Long Lake, where a tornado also struck.
More than 6 inches of rain fell within a few hours, and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area.
All flights at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were suspended at 8:30 p.m, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded, said John Ostrom, operations coordinator for the Metropolitan Airport Commission.
″It’s a real mess out here,″ he said.
Runways were flooded, he said, and minor flooding was reported inside airport buildings.
Tornadoes touched down in the Maple Grove-Brooklyn Park area, the Long Lake area and the New Brighton-St. Anthony-Arden Hills area, the National Weather Service said.
Winds were reported in some areas at 60 to 70 mph, and torrential rains left up to 3 feet of water on some roads.
In addition to early tornado warnings in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, the weather service issued a tornado watch from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. for an area 70 statute miles north and south of a line from 50 miles west-northwest of Worthington to 45 miles southeast of Eau Claire, Wis.
In Maple Grove, a camper-trailer was blown from Ron Peterson’s driveway 100 feet into the front yard of his neighbors, Violet and Kevin Peters, leaving gouges in the ground.
″I thought my whole house was blowing down,″ Mrs. Peters said.
She, her husband and their children watched the storm from the crawl space in their house.
″You could hear glass breaking and things hitting the house,″ Kevin Peters said.
At Billy’s Lighthouse, restaurant manager Warren Nelson, 27, said: ″People were going nuts. Waitresses didn’t want to work and people were taking their dinners downstairs.″