Midwest storms, tornadoes knock over railcars
Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Powerful storms across the Midwest brought heavy rain, strong winds and unleashed several tornadoes, damaging homes and businesses, tossing railcars off their tracks and knocking out power to thousands.
In southeastern Minnesota, daylight Thursday revealed heavy destruction in the town of Austin, where vehicles were thrown about, homes were heavily damaged and power lines were knocked down. A few minor injuries were reported.
Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm said it appeared up to five twisters had hit Wednesday night. The National Weather Service said one tornado on the north side of town was about 10 miles long and lasted for more than 20 minutes. The weather service said that at its worst point, the twister registered an EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, meaning it generated winds between 111 mph and 135 mph.
“It kind of developed on top of us,” Stiehm said. “It just kind of – boom, it was just there and the intensity got real bad.”
Mike Schuster, who lives in north Austin, told the Austin Daily Herald that he was on his deck when a tornado came out of nowhere, bowing one side of his house, destroying his shed and flattening his trees.
The National Weather Service said that just hours earlier, a tornado briefly touched down in far western Minnesota, near Tenney in Wilkin County. It was the first tornado of the year in Minnesota.
In southern Nebraska, a tornado ravaged a house near Aurora, knocked down power poles and overturned about a dozen railroad cars. High winds damaged a nearby pet products plant, the National Weather Service said.
Jeff Juzyk and his wife, Stacie, had just put their four children to bed when the power went out in their home about five miles west of Aurora. Jeff Juzyk looked outside and saw the top of a dark, narrow cloud. He and his wife rushed their children into the basement.
“I could feel the house just blowing apart,” he said.
On Thursday, their roof and one wall were gone, the porch had collapsed and all the windows had blown in.
In Illinois, storms broke tree limbs, flooded some streets and knocked out power for as many as 43,000 people in central and western Illinois.
In central Iowa, authorities said a semitrailer was blown off Interstate 35 and roofs were ripped off a house and barn.
In northwest Missouri, a storm damaged buildings and toppled trees and power lines in the small town of Norborne. Mike July, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, said straight-line winds reached 74 mph.
Storms continued to threaten some central states on Thursday. In southern Indiana, strong winds blew 12 empty railcars off the tracks near the Greene County town of Worthington as thunderstorms moved through the state.
Central Minnesota also saw storms Thursday evening, complete with hail, lightning and some instances of strong winds. High winds in northwestern Minnesota flipped over a couple of semi-trailer trucks on Interstate 94, the Star Tribune reported. There were no injuries. Tornado watches and thunderstorm warnings were in effect throughout the night as the storm moved across Minnesota.
Moderate flooding was happening along the Wild Rice River at Abercrombie in southeastern North Dakota, the National Weather Service said. A flood warning was extended until next Wednesday for the Red River in Fargo, where the river is expected to rise to 23.3 feet by Saturday afternoon – more than 5 feet above flood stage.
Associated Press writers Nate Jenkins in Aurora, Neb., Nelson Lampe in Omaha, Neb., and Melanie S. Welte in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.