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Tornado damage Wednesday, June 18, 2014 in Wessington Springs, S.D. Mitchell Republic photo by Sean Ryan
Tornado damage Wednesday, June 18, 2014 in Wessington Springs, S.D. Mitchell Republic photo by Sean Ryan

Tornado rips through central S.D. town

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WESSINGTON SPRINGS, S.D. -- Kim Christensen was driving his four-wheeler through Wessington Springs on Wednesday night, because he didn’t want to puncture a tire on his vehicle.

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Wood, tin, nails and other debris -- the remains of homes and businesses no longer standing -- lay strewn throughout the streets, left in the wake of a tornado. Despite the structural damage, Christensen said the town’s people remained mostly physically unscathed.

“Everybody seems to be OK, as far as I know,” he said.

Christensen, a city council member, said he was sitting on the other side of town, taking pictures when the twister hit.

“I didn’t see it hit, but I could see the stuff in the rotation,” Christensen said. “That was close enough for me. I’m not a storm chaser.”

He estimated the tornado hit close to the National Weather Service’s prediction, which timed the tornado’s arrival at 7:30 p.m.

“Whenever they said it was going to be here, believe me it was here,” Christensen said.

He said the rotation struck the east side of Wessington Springs, a town of about 1,000 people about 50 miles northwest of Mitchell in southeast South Dakota.

Businesses along that side of town -- Springs Auto, Prairie Lounge and the Hideout Bar & Grille -- were leveled.

The tornado knocked down power lines, collapsed homes and ripped the roofs off others.

“There’s houses that are completely leveled,” Christensen said. “A lot of damage. A lot of debri.”

Philip Schumacher, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Sioux Falls, said the storm hit a large portion of southeastern South Dakota and floated into border states Iowa and Nebraska, producing wind, rain and hail.

Some power outages and crop damage were reported.

Earlier this week, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard declared a state of emergency because of severe flooding in southeast South Dakota.

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