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Five injured in three-vehicle crash in Willmar

Storm downs power lines, trees and closes businesses in Pope Co.

Power lines were tangled amongst hundreds of downed trees strewn across Pope County following a powerful storm Monday morning.

Cleanup is difficult, residents and businesses have been without power and roads have been closed. Boats, docks and boat lifts were slammed together in a mangled mess along Lake Minnewaska beaches, city streets were flooded and lakeshore lawns were disappearing as the lake level rose.

Many businesses were closed in communities hardest hit by the storm, including Glenwood, Starbuck, Lowry and Farwell because there was no electricity. It's estimated 80 percent of the customers in those communities were without power Monday.

"Nobody got hurt," said Pope County Sheriff Tim Riley, who had been processing damage reports and coordinating emergency response efforts Monday.

Care facilities, including the hospital, nursing home and private homes where people needing oxygen lived, were immediately surveyed to make sure their needs were met, Riley said.

"We're doing what we can, working together and taking care of people who need to be taken care of," he said.

Riley said he had not heard any reports of heavy structural damage to buildings, although shingles and siding had been torn off and trees had crashed onto many houses and garages.

The National Weather Service was too busy Monday tracking a series of storms that marched across the state to investigate whether a tornado or straight-line winds hit Pope County. But based on the atmospheric conditions at the time, meteorologist Todd Krause said he suspected straight-line winds were the culprit.

"But there's a lot of investigation on our part that needs to be done," said Krause. "We haven't back-tracked yet."

Rebecca Webb, who lives on Lake Minnewaska, said she was watching the storm out her large glass patio doors around 7:30 a.m. when the winds made a dramatic shift in direction and she heard an announcement on the TV that Pope County was in a tornado warning and that a trained spotter had seen a funnel cloud. As she ran to the basement, she said she heard a wailing sound she's never heard before. She wondered if what she heard was a tornado.

After the storm subsided and Webb spent time cleaning up her own boat dock and took pictures of the lakeshore mess. She believes she's the only one in her neighborhood that didn't have a tree crash down in her yard.

Besides the mashed together boats, Webb said there were "ghost pontoons" that had become unmoored and were floating in the lake. She saw one woman standing with her head in her hands "in despair" as she looked at the tangled wreckage of her boat and dock.

As she tried to find a clear path out of town to get to her job in Morris, Webb found streets blocked by downed trees. She was able to squeeze out of town by driving through the city beach parking lot.

After she left work Monday afternoon, she said she was going to buy some fried chicken to share with her neighbors who had been busy cutting trees and clearing debris all day and didn't have electricity to cook dinner.

State Highway 55 east of Lowry remains closed because of downed power lines. The Minnesota Department of Transportation said it would be closed for at least the next two days while cleanup continues.

State Highway 29 north of Glenwood reopened Monday afternoon, but there is still debris along the sides of the road. MnDOT also says flooding is still affecting state Highway 28 in Glenwood near the Pope County Fairgrounds.

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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