Storms roar through region, triggering tornado sirens and delivering rain, hailWORTHINGTON — Tornado sirens, funnel cloud sightings, hail, strong winds and pelting rains struck southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa Friday afternoon, creating lakes in farm fields, swiftly running currents in road ditches and flooded city streets.
By: Julie Buntjer and Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Tornado sirens, funnel cloud sightings, hail, strong winds and pelting rains struck southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa Friday afternoon, creating lakes in farm fields, swiftly running currents in road ditches and flooded city streets. It also caused power outages in some rural areas, as well as in the city of Worthington.
Still, Nobles County came through Friday afternoon’s bout of severe weather relatively unscathed.
No serious damage reports had been received as of 5 p.m. Friday by the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office. The first indication of the approaching weather was a report of a funnel cloud five or six miles southwest of Rushmore. Shortly thereafter came another report of a second funnel, five or six miles west of Worthington. In both cases, a funnel appeared but receded back into the clouds.
A trained weather spotter reported a funnel dipping down and receding back into the clouds right over the Prairie Justice Center and Worthington Airport, just north of the city.
Another caller sighted a tornado two miles west of Worthington, heading east toward Worthington Middle School.
The Worthington tornado sirens were activated at about 1:50 p.m. and sounded for a second time at 2:16 p.m., following the tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D. Law enforcement officers, posted just west of the city, reported seeing what might have been a funnel cloud, although heavy rain obscured their view.
The Prairie Justice Center — and most of the city — lost power at 2:15 p.m., but the power outage was, in the city limits, short-lived.
Jerry Mausbach, a line superintendent for Nobles Cooperative Electric, said transmission lines and several large structures were damaged from Adrian to Rushmore and Worthington. He said the damage was caused by high winds.
“Some structures are still down,” he said as of 7 p.m. Friday night, adding that Great River Energy and Alliant Energy were on the scene to repair the damage. By then, all power had been restored to rural electric customers.
Mausbach said residents in the Adrian area were without power for the longest period of time — approximately two hours.
“Nobles Cooperative Electric advises the public to stay away from any downed power lines and to report any damage to our office,” he added.
The biggest problem in the storm’s aftermath was flooding, with 2 inches of rain received in downtown Worthington within a short period of time. Many streets were flooded, and barricades were erected to alert motorists. A flash flood warning was issued until 10 p.m. Friday for Nobles and Jackson counties, but was allowed to expire by 8:30 p.m.
Jeff Chapman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, S.D., said Friday afternoon’s severe weather outbreak initiated in central South Dakota during the morning hours.
“They really didn’t show a great sign of intensifying until they got further east,” said Chapman. By early afternoon, the air mass over northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota had become “very unstable,” causing storms to intensify fairly rapidly, he added.
The National Weather Service received reports of tornadoes near Rushmore and Worthington Municipal Airport, and Chapman said “there continued to be reports of tornado touchdowns all the way along I-90 to the Lakefield exit.”
At Worthington’s airport, Integrity Aviation’s Cameron Johnson said there was some damage, but nothing significant.
“There were a couple of hangar doors that had damage, and we lost a few shingles on the house,” he said. “There was a little bit of damage, but nothing too bad.”
Quarter-sized hail was reported one mile north of Worthington, while Hawarden, in northwest Iowa, reported hail at 1.25 inches in diameter. Strong winds, reported at 60- to 80 miles per hour, were reported from Orange City, Iowa, to Spencer, Iowa, and toward the Iowa Great Lakes, Chapman said.
After the storm passed through southwest Minnesota, Chapman said the evening and overnight were expected to be quiet. Residents may be in for Round 2, however, today.
“We may, by (Saturday) morning, be seeing showers and thunderstorms approach,” he said. “There is the potential for stronger development toward the evening hours, and we’ll need to keep an eye on the sky.”
Chapman said large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes are also a possibility this evening.
“There are indications there could be quite a bit of rainfall with the storms (Saturday) night,” he added. “We’re just getting into the front part of our more active, severe weather season.”