Worthington breaks April storm records

REGIONAL -- April has been historic for all the wrong reasons. Unless you really like snow. And hurricane-like gusts. And power outages. After last weekend's blizzard, Worthington has seen an estimated 18 inches of snowfall in the month of April....

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Blizzard conditions kept visibility to a minimum Saturday on Nobles County 12, looking east toward Worthington, as snow and wind combined to force road closures throughout the region. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

REGIONAL - April has been historic for all the wrong reasons.


Unless you really like snow. And hurricane-like gusts. And power outages.


After last weekend's blizzard, Worthington has seen an estimated 18 inches of snowfall in the month of April. That breaks the record for combined snowfall in the month - previously 15 inches in 2013 - according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sioux Falls, S.D.



That number will only increase, as NWS expects Worthington could get another 2 to 4 inches from Tuesday night to Wednesday evening.


The Worthington Wastewater Treatment Plant reported 7.5 inches of snow on Saturday. NWS estimates the Worthington area got about 10 inches. Either way, Saturday’s snowstorm crushed the previous April 15 single-day record - 1.7 inches in 1996.


Surrounding communities saw a lot more snow. Lakefield reportedly got 13.4 inches of snowfall. Jackson saw 12 and Slayton 11. Parts of Lyon County, Iowa reported 17.5 inches.


“This indicates how special this month is, because it certainly has been record-breaking snowfall throughout the region,” said Brad Adams, a meteorologist at NWS. “It just goes to show we’re having an extraordinary April.”


The region’s cold-air pool, which typically moves north to Canada this time of year, has instead stuck around, turning the usual spring showers into snowstorms, Adams said.


It wouldn’t be a blizzard without strong winds, which reached 52 mph at the Worthington Municipal Airport between Friday and Saturday.


According to the NWS, gusts in parts of Rock and Nobles counties Friday surpassed 75 mph Friday - about as fast as a minor hurricane. Gusts reached 78 mph just north of Rushmore at 7:52 a.m. Friday, and eight minutes later, winds caused serious damage to a machine shed located two miles east of Wilmont.


At 7:41 a.m. Friday, the roof of an 80-by-80 foot Bullerman Livestock and Grain commodity shed, located just north of Adrian, was blown off by strong winds. The atmosphere was a dead calm just before the roof was ripped straight up into the air, according to Colt Bullerman.



The way the debris was spread around in a circular pattern, and security camera footage leads Bullerman to believe the damage was caused by a short-lived tornado, although the existence of a tornado has not been confirmed.


Also on Friday morning, around 90 Sioux Valley Energy transmission poles were knocked down along Interstate 90, causing several rural communities to lose power entirely - including Magnolia and Ellsworth.


All members of the Ellsworth Fire Department were called to the fire hall to assess the situation. Volunteers, along with Ellsworth Mayor Tasha Domeyer, checked on residents to see if they needed help. Nine people were brought to Parkview Manor and a few others stayed at the fire hall - otherwise known as home base.

Nobles County Commissioner Justin Ahlers brought a generator to town, which allowed the water treatment plant to remain operational throughout. Nobody required medical assistance during the blackout, Domeyer said.


After 80 hours of darkness, Ellsworth regained power at around 5 p.m. Monday. Several “woohoos” could be heard in the newly energized community.


“In a small town, everybody pulls together,” Domeyer said. “I think everything went smoothly. The fire department did a great job. Everybody did a great job - the whole town did.”

Nobles Cooperative Electric, Ellsworth’s provider, made repairs to its own system Friday and helped with some transmission lines, but had to wait until Sioux Valley Energy’s transmission lines were repaired before it could restore power to Ellsworth, according to Tracey Haberman, member service manager.


As work on the transmission lines started in Rock County and continued east into Nobles County, Magnolia had power restored earlier - at around 8 p.m. Sunday.


The nearby communities of Hills, Beaver Creek, Magnolia, Kanaranzi, Steen and Lester, Iowa had power restored between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, according to Sioux Valley Energy,


Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday signed an emergency executive order to provide assistance and shelter to those in Rock County. Residents from Magnolia’s Southwestern Youth Services were transferred to the Luverne Armory, according to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.


Rock County commissioners on Tuesday approved a state disaster declaration, and have already received confirmation that representatives from the state will visit in the near future to conduct a preliminary damage assessment.

Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said Tuesday the county is reporting $830,000 in damage - $500,000 is for Sioux Valley Electric Cooperative and $250,000 is for L&O Cooperative Power Company for costs associated with downed power lines and outages. Oldre said township officials and other units of government will be able to claim damages during the meeting with state officials.


On Saturday, the combination of snow and powerful winds made for little visibility. The Nobles County Sheriff’s Office and Worthington Police Department advised against travel until conditions improved.

Snow plows in Nobles County did just that, staying in until Sunday morning, then working through Monday to clear off major roads. In all of Stephen Schnieder’s years as Nobles County Public Works director, he has never seen an April like this.


“Normally, you might get a storm, but generally you get one, or you get maybe an inch or two of snow,” Schnieder said. “But having them consistently and always having them on a weekend, it makes it interesting.”

In Worthington, plows started at 5 p.m. Saturday and worked until 3:30 a.m. Workers then got a few hours of rest and started again at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to Todd Wietzema, Worthington Public Works Director. The department cleared out 244 truckloads worth of snow in downtown Worthington alone.


From spring cleaning to pothole filling, the unusual April has delayed typical spring work for both public works departments. Specific projects, such as repairs to bridges along Nobles County 15, may be pushed back.

This latest snowstorm isn’t expected to be as harsh. A light wintry mix of snow, sleet or freezing rain was forecast to arrive after 3 a.m. Wednesday, followed by a quick transition to snow, according to the NWS.


After it’s over Wednesday night, some optimists predict winter storms will come to an end.


“I honestly think this is going to be our last big one,” Schneider said.

Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer contributed to this report.

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