Minn. drowns in heavy rains

WILLMAR -- Willmar students spent a little more time at school than normal Thursday as a severe weather front rolled through west central Minnesota before capsizing most of the state.

WILLMAR -- Willmar students spent a little more time at school than normal Thursday as a severe weather front rolled through west central Minnesota before capsizing most of the state.

Just as class got out, the Willmar School District delayed its buses nearly two hours to ensure the safety of its students after a tornado warning was issued in Kandiyohi County.

Scott Hisken, principal at Kennedy Elementary School, said the district made the decision to hold the buses around 3 p.m. The only problem, Hisken said, was that some buses were already en route to their destinations because schools have staggered dismissal times.

Hisken credited the communication with Willmar Bus Service and law enforcement for the efficient decision-making and process of stopping the buses.

"Working with the bus company is critical," Hisken said. "It's a partnership. You have to get the situation secured and organized. (Overall) it ran quite smoothly."


Ken Inselmann, owner of Willmar Bus Service, said the buses stop at multiple school buildings in the area. For the buses already en route, Inselmann said, the bus service made sure they got to their next stop so the students could take shelter.

Hisken said for other buses, the district brought them back to buildings that had enough staff available to help the students seek shelter and take cover.

"We wanted to make sure the students were safe," Inselmann said. "And we waited until the alerts were cleared by the National Weather Service."

Although the students were held up for nearly two hours, Hisken said some parents did come to Kennedy Elementary to pick up their children.

But once the district received warnings from law enforcement about a possible tornado, local media and the National Weather service, Hisken said, the district took action quickly by delaying the school buses.

"Safety isn't something we take lightly," Hisken said.

Even though all the buses in Willmar were shut down with the severe weather front that came through the region, other schools also held their students from traveling in the dangerous conditions.

One bus from the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District sought safe shelter until the storm passed.


In Prinsburg, Central Minnesota Christian School kept its students at school following class dismissal because of tornado warnings in the area, said Superintendent Rod De Boer.

De Boer said the school received information that it would be unsafe to put the students out on the road with the report of a tornado near the school. Central Minnesota Christian School kept three busloads of students at the school for about 30 minutes and two other buses for about an hour. At 4:15 p.m. Thursday, De Boer said all the students were dismissed and on their way home.

Despite the safety practiced by the local schools, the severe weather took no mercy on Yellow Medicine, Lac qui Parle, Kandiyohi, Swift, Meeker, and Stearns counties. Hail up to 2 inches in size, uprooted trees and winds powerful enough to rip roofs off buildings plagued the area.

A few hours after the Tribune reported a trace of severe weather in Meeker County, reports of 2-inch hail and a tree falling on a mobile home were gathered by the National Weather Service and its trained severe weather spotters.

In Stearns County, another spotter reported that Sauk Centre had 4.85 inches of rainfall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. It was later reported the city started barricading roads in town because of flooding.

Just south of Pennock, the roof of a turkey barn was partially torn off by the raging winds of the storms in western Kandiyohi County.

Severe weather warnings remained in west central Minnesota until moving into the Twin Cities area around 5:30 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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