One killed as tornadoes move through Minnesota
A 90-year-old man died when a tornado hit a house near Kasota in Le Sueur County, as part of a series of storms on Thursday that injured nearly two dozen people and damaged several homes and farms. Authorities say they found Thomas O'Brien covered by debris from his home and transported him to a nearby hospital, where he died. At least 22 people were taken to emergency rooms for care.
St. Paul, Minn. — The storm hit a quadrant of land between Nicollet and Fairibault. LeSeur County Public Information Officer Roxy Traxler says the county will be surveying the damage this morning. She says twelve people had been reported injured as of late Thursday night.
Strong winds, hail and flooding picked up where the tornadoes left off across southeastern Minnesota. Severe storm warnings and flash floods watches remained in effect in Freeborn, Dodge and Olmsted Counties through the night.
The National Weather Service has yet to determine how many tornadoes touched down. But LeSeur County officials say tornadoes struck in Cleveland, Kasota, Waterville and Nicollet.
At the American Legion in LeCenter Dale Hrdlicka, who owns a trucking company, says one of his employees was driving in the Cleveland area when the tornado hit.
"He seen four houses down, all the power lines were down from town to the cemetery," Hrdlicka said. "Where I came through, I saw about half mile of power lines down. One house with the second story ripped open on the house."
The last major tornado to hit the region swept through the St. Peter area in 1998. Hrdlicka says towns like Cleveland were hit, too. 1998's tornado was a level three, with winds up 158 to 200 miles per hour. The weather service has yet to determine Thursday's storm's intensity, but Cleveland resident Kym Blascao says it wasn't a kitten.
Blascao says she and her husband saw the tornado hit a house: "And it was totally... There was nobody there yet. We went running through the house... They weren't home."
Mary Rahm, 22, said she saw the tornado dip from the clouds, bounce back up, dip down and bounce up again. Then the third time it dipped it hit the ground. That's when she and her newborn headed for cover.
"I grabbed my son and went under the desk because I don't have a basement. My 5-week-old son just made it through his first tornado," Rahm said. "This is wicked."
Bob Hartel was outside near his house in Nicollet watching the sky darken when the tornado suddenly appeared.
"There was no place for me to run to, so I lay flat on the ground and it went right over me. I got a little messy, but that's OK," Hartel told the Journal of New Ulm.
Power crews worked overnight in an attempt to re-open six county roads closed by downed power lines. The National Weather Service says it will have more details on the storm by Friday afternoon.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty also planned to tour the storm-damaged area on Friday.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)