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In the aftermath: Strong winds bring tornadoes, uproot trees and blow off roofs

WORTHINGTON -- A couple of tornadoes touched down in the area during a severe thunderstorm, and rain and hail fell Tuesday afternoon in parts of southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.The thunderstorm developed in northeast Nebraska at 1:30 p.m.,...

2605039+Storm Damage olson park rgb.jpg
At Olson Park and Campground, the storm winds snapped a cottonwood tree and damaged the shelter house. Tim Middagh/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - A couple of tornadoes touched down in the area during a severe thunderstorm, and rain and hail fell Tuesday afternoon in parts of southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.
The thunderstorm developed in northeast Nebraska at 1:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sioux Falls, S.D. The storm system made its way toward southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa in the afternoon. Fallen trees and pole lines were reported to authorities, and the NWS reported 60 mile per hour winds in parts of the area.
According to the Pipestone Sheriff’s Department, the first tornado was reportedly seen at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday on the west side of the county.
The tornado took out an open-faced cattle barn and continued north to rural areas of the county for about three miles before it dissipated. Trees and buildings in the area sustained minor damage; however, officials are unsure if the damage was caused by the wind or the tornado. No one was injured or killed during the storm, said Pipestone County Chief Deputy Mike Hamann.
The second tornado touched down near Lake Park, Iowa, at 2:22 p.m. Tuesday, according to NWS reports.
Lake Park and Dickinson County officials could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.
About 12 miles west in Spirit Lake, Iowa, a roof was blown off a mobile home, a small shed and privacy fence were damaged, and power lines were down.
The NWS also received reports of widespread tree damage and downed power lines in Milford, Iowa. Near Okoboji, hail was reported to last for five minutes.
Power outages were also reported in Cottonwood County, and officials are investigating if a tornado touched down in the area, according to the Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Department.
At 3 p.m., professional storm spotters reported a thunderstorm with rotation and a possible funnel one mile southwest of Windom, according to a press release from Cottonwood County Emergency Management. The storm became wrapped in rain, making it difficult for the spotters to see what was happening inside the storm, so emergency management officials decided to activate outdoor warning sirens in Windom and Bingham Lake.
The NWS reported radar-indicated rotation southeast of Bingham Lake. The service also alerted residents to possible 60 mile per hour winds at around 3:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Most of the damage sustained in Cottonwood County happened in Mountain Lake: officials reported uprooted trees, a roof partly blown off a shed and older barns with sustained roof damage or that were completely blown over.
Worthington suffered the most damage in Nobles County. Fallen trees and flooding were reported in the city. The areas with the most damage were the south and west parts of city, said Public Works Director Todd Wietzema.
Olson Park and Campground sustained a lot of damage, Wietzema said. A tree fell onto the shelter, and the ground was covered with branches.
A large boulevard tree fell in front of a small house near Pupuseria & Restaurant Crystal and Minnesota 60.
A pine tree fell on a house near Sunset Bay, but officials said the house did not sustain major damage, said Worthington City Clerk Janice Oberloh.
A big boat also crashed onto the shore of Lake Okabena near Sailboard Beach.

“I think we dodged a big bullet. We didn’t have too much damage here in Worthington,” Wietzema said, adding that city crews were out after the storm passed, removing debris from the roads. 

“We will continue to clean up,” he said.
Smartphones in the area should have lit up with severe weather notifications, said Nobles County Emergency Management Director Joyce Jacobs.
Jacobs encouraged any smartphone users who didn’t get weather updates to sign up for emergency alerts to be sent to their phones via text messaging and computers via email.
“(Today was) a really good test, if your phone wasn’t going today,” she said. “It will make the difference between life and death... if we (have) something really severe.”
To subscribe, phone users can text to 88877 or they can visit the city’s website at www.ci.worthington.mn.us/nixle .
The alerts notify residents when there is severe weather in their area based on the location of their phones. In addition, users can also pick local police departments, schools, community agencies and organizations throughout the country that are important for them to follow.
The alerts can be useful for homeowners who are away from their homes at the time of the storm, Jacobs said. They can notify their neighbors to check their house after the storm passes or make sure to check up on their friends and family while they are away on vacation.
Jacobs also wanted to remind residents that sirens are only meant to be heard from outside. If people are indoors, they should also listen to local media reports on the television, radio or through the internet. Residents who hear the sirens should go indoors to the lowest level of their home and search the internet or listen to local media for weather alerts.
“(It) basically means it’s time to take shelter and it's time to take shelter now,” Jacobs said.

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