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Severe weather warnings ultimately amount to little

Dark clouds were visible Friday above the water tower near the Ridgewater College campus in Willmar during an afternoon storm that threatened to be far worse than it was. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Tornado warnings throughout west central Minnesota had law enforcement and emergency agencies scouring the sky for funnel clouds Friday afternoon.

Walls clouds, some involving rotation, were reported in several areas and there was an unconfirmed report of a funnel touching the ground just west of Spicer.

Sirens sounded in several communities, warning of the dangerous weather.

But in the end what came from the sky was mostly just heavy rain and hail.

Reports of hail varied from pea- and marble-sized to golf-ball sized in areas to the south of Willmar like Prinsburg and to the northwest in communities like Sunburg and Murdock.

Willmar escaped both the hail and heavy rain.

While hail likely damaged farm fields, there were no reports of any significant storm or wind damage, Kandiyohi County Patrol Sgt. Gary Wyffels said. A county squad car "got dinged up" from hail stones while a deputy was patrolling during the storm, he said.

Chippewa County Sheriff Stacy Tufto was out weather watching when hail blew out the back windshield of his squad car and cracked the front window. Tufto wasn't injured. There was no other storm damage reported in the county, according to a county dispatcher.

The ingredients for tornadic action were indeed present Friday, Wyffels said. "There was the potential of something bad happening," he said. "But there was nothing that came to the ground. We're thankful for that."

The first tornado warning went out around 4:30 p.m. for southern Kandiyohi County and eastern Chippewa County. About 30 minutes later the warning was expanded to six more west central Minnesota counties as the storm moved east. At 5:30 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for southeastern Renville County and another warning was sent out at 6:45 p.m. for southern Redwood County.

During the peak of the storm there were several tense moments when Kandiyohi County officials were looking for people feared lost or harmed. Rescue personnel were on their way to Monson Lake State Park, south of Sunburg, to look for a solo canoeist who hadn't been seen after the rain began. The individual was found a short time later at the campground.

Shortly thereafter authorities began looking for a 50-year-old female bicyclist who'd gotten separated from a group biking around Green Lake. The woman reportedly got lost on a county road and took shelter at a residence as the storm passed over.

With the tornado warnings hanging over head, some businesses didn't take chances. Wal-Mart Supercenter in Willmar ushered customers who were already in the store to the back wall of the building and closed its doors until the warning expired.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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