It's official: Storm that hit Minneapolis was a tornadoby Martiga Lohn, Associated Press
North Branch, Minn. — Crews surveyed holes in schools, churches and homes and cleared away toppled trees, downed power lines and shattered glass Thursday, the day after tornadoes and severe storms marched through the Midwest.
While the National Weather Service assessed how many tornadoes touched down from Minnesota to Indiana, insurance adjusters and building inspectors made the rounds, and utilities worked to restore power to tens of thousands of customers.
The National Weather Service confirms that a tornado touched down in south Minneapolis on Wednesday, then moved north toward downtown.
The weather service has damage assessment teams on the ground in the area. They will determine the tornado's intensity and the width and length of its path on the ground.
A preliminary damage assessment by the American Red Cross on Wednesday evening found that 40 homes in the area suffered at least some damage during the storm.
The weather service says it has two other assessment teams on the ground checking out reports of tornados. One team is in Brown and Blue Earth counties, the other is in western Wisconsin checking out reports in St. Croix County.
The storm damage at the North Branch Middle School caused officials to call off the final day of summer school and ponder how they'd handle the start of regular classes about two weeks from now.
A suspected tornado dented the roof - causing ceiling tiles, supports, pipes and some cinder blocks to give way and leaving pooled water inside.
"We're doing everything in our power to make sure school starts on time," said Patrick Tepoorten, spokesman for the district 40 miles north of St. Paul.
Patti Blegen said her 12-year-old daughter and her friends have been eagerly anticipating the start of seventh grade at the middle school. Now mother and daughter are waiting to hear how it will play out.
"They're really looking forward to starting," Blegen said. "Even though kids say they don't want to go back, they do have enough of summer. When summer's done, they're done."
Residential damage was the primary concern in Minneapolis, the most densely populated of the storm-struck areas.
A tornado tore off part of a 90-year-old metal church steeple and left a hole in the roof of the city Convention Center, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was holding its national convention.
Back in North Branch, the middle school was deemed off-limits to the public. Outside, two sets of metal bleachers had collapsed and a few snapped-off pine trees lay near the playground.
Tepoorten said all or part of the middle school might stay closed for repairs after classes start on Sept. 8.
State Rep. Jeremy Kalin said he got a quick look at the damage after Wednesday's storm.
"Our hope is that we can, worst case, close off that wing and be able to use the rest of the building," he said.