Tornadoes or high winds? Either way, damage stretches across the tri-state area
Farms, communities from Ellsworth to St. Killian see damage in Nobles County.
ADRIAN — Whether it was straight-line winds or tornadoes that rolled through Nobles County during the early morning hours on Memorial Day Monday, the damage left in the storms’ wake will have people cleaning up debris for days.
It was about 2:20 a.m. Monday when the storm hit south of Adrian, doing damage to two homes, a hog barn and numerous trees on the Cy Lonneman and Sons farms. The families were alerted to the approaching storm when their cell phones sounded a warning alert.
Chad Lonneman, along with his wife, Kris, and their one-year-old daughter went directly to the basement, where Chad’s dad, Jerry Lonneman, said they heard what sounded like a siren outside. When it was over, Chad looked out at the darkened sky to see tin scattered about their yard.
“The siding on the west and north side of the house was ripped off,” Jerry said. And the tin Chad saw in the yard was from their 2,000-head nursery pig barn about a half-mile to the west.
The barn lost over half of its roof, but all of the 40-pound pigs inside were miraculously OK. Two other barns on the site had no damage.
“When the electricity went off, we have alarms in the barns and the generators all start,” Jerry said.
In need of a place for the 2,000 pigs to go, Jerry said they called around to processing plants Monday morning, and were able to get six loads of market-ready hogs into a plant to make room in one of their finishing barns for the younger pigs.
Load by load, all of the young pigs were transitioned to the finishing barn on Monday. Jerry said they finished hauling the last load by 6 p.m.
Debris from the nursery barn was scattered in farm fields for approximately two miles to the east, and Jerry said it’s too wet to get into the fields to remove the tin and “a boatload” of 2x4s.
“We are thankful for the neighbors and friends that came and helped — and offered to help,” Jerry said. On Monday, they concentrated on cleaning up Chad’s home site, piling up the tin and doing what they could. The downed trees will be dealt with when the ground dries up a bit.
East of Chad Lonneman’s place, another Lonneman site saw damage to the house — including a tree branch that was driven through the steel siding — and a huge dent in the top half of a Harvestore silo.
The Lonneman sites are on either side of Minnesota 91, and following the highway southwest toward Ellsworth showed a path of destruction including mangled groves, destroyed buildings and downed power lines.
Cody Bullerman was working to get power restored on one of his sites Monday afternoon as they worked around downed trees and debris scattered about the farmyard.
Bullerman and his family live two miles straight east of the farm that was hit with what he believes was a tornado. While their home place had five garage doors blown in and tin rolled back on two of the cattle barns, it paled in comparison to the damage they experienced when the place was hit by a storm 10 years ago.
Still, Bullerman has a lot of clean-up to do, particularly at his site along Minnesota 91. With Monday being a holiday, clean-up was minimal. He wanted to wait for the insurance adjuster on Tuesday before beginning the rest of the clean-up.
Less than half of what was a machine shed remains standing there, and a smaller shed next to it is completely gone. The roof was taken off the silo, a white picket fence is leaning against trees, tin is mangled and tangled around items in the yard and the trampoline and swing set — well loved by his wife’s daycare children — were carried to the other side of the yard.
The barn, which houses some pigs and chickens for the daycare kids to enjoy, had only minimal damage with some tin taken off of the roof.
All in all, Bullerman is thankful no one was hurt in the storm. They, too, were awakened by their phones and went to the basement immediately.
“It was loud; it was windy, there’s no doubt about that — stronger than normal wind,” Bullerman said. He believes it was a combination of tornadoes and straight line winds that created the path of destruction between Ellsworth and Adrian. As for rain, he had an inch and a half in his rain gauge.
“We can use the rain,” he said.
They could have done without the wind.
While farmers worked primarily on their own or with the help of family and friends, a community of volunteers came out to help with the clean-up in Rushmore. There, Cooperative Farmers Elevator lost its roof, as did a mini-storage facility. Numerous trees were either uprooted or snapped, and power lines were down throughout town.
The city of Rushmore was barricaded to visitors until the debris was cleared.
Joyce Jacobs, Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer and resident of Rushmore described the scene.
“Our neighbors have a tree on their roof, and another neighbor had windows go in the front, and deck damage,” she said.
“Crews (composed primarily of local firefighters) have been by and cleaned up quite a bit already,” Jacobs said just before 1 p.m. Monday. “They had some of their kids with, and that was really great to see.”
Jacobs and her husband, Randy, were awakened early Monday morning when their cell phones sounded alarms about the approaching storm. The tornado siren sounded twice in the community.
“From what we’ve heard, there are no injuries — and hopefully by the time we get done cleaning up, there will still be no injuries,” Jacobs said.
Lonneman, too, was thankful that no one was hurt.
“We had enough damage, but it could have been a lot worse,” he said. “The big thing is nobody got hurt — that’s the No. 1 thing.
“The REA did a tremendous job to get the power restored as quick as they did,” he added.
Nobles Cooperative Electric reported having more than 20 transmission poles downed on the line that delivers power to Ellsworth and impacting the cooperative’s southernmost service territory. According to its Facebook page, the southwest one-third of Ellsworth was still without power Monday night, and due to “such extensive damage” it was doubtful it would be restored before 10 p.m.
“Crews have been working around the clock,” the Monday night post stated, adding that work would begin again at 6 a.m.
The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, initially suspected straight-line winds as the cause of damage in Nobles County, with wind speeds clocked in excess of 100 miles per hour. On Tuesday, however, the office reported that it has teams on the ground to survey the damage, and they will be working their way out in all directions due to the extent of damage reported and the numerous tornado warnings issued in the tri-state issue on Monday.