GRANITE FALLS — The Yellow Medicine East School District is coping with hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage from Saturday’s storm, but is committed to being ready for the upcoming school year.
“This is going to make it more difficult,” said Superintendent Rich Schneider of the challenges posed by the storm damage. “We have to be ready to pivot, and be flexible here,” he said Monday.
Straight-line winds estimated at 70 miles per hour ripped apart the roofs over the school’s 1930s auditorium/gymnasium building as well as the middle school/high school building in Granite Falls. The entire membrane over the auditorium was pulled away, Schneider said. The winds tore off the heating and ventilation systems on the roofs, opening the duct work to the rain. Water poured through the ventilation system and directly into classrooms, hallways and on equipment.
A crew worked late into the night Saturday following the storm to place a temporary roof over the damage. School workers and volunteers worked through the weekend to mop up water and remove damaged computers and equipment.
A building restoration company will help the school assess the damage, said the superintendent. He said the school will also be getting a contractor on board as quickly as possible for repair work. It’s not known yet how much structural damage might have been incurred, he said.
YME School Board members were meeting Monday night to deal with the storm damage, as well as finalize plans for the start of the school year.
Schneider said the school has a solid plan in place for the start of the school year and believes it can stay on track. The school will adjust as necessary and be ready for the start. “We can’t give up on it,” he said.
The Saturday storm rolled through Yellow Medicine County like a freight train on a track from Canby to Clarkfield to Granite Falls, toppling hundreds of trees and damaging some buildings in all three communities and farm places in-between.
The city of Granite Falls declared a state of emergency on Monday.
Granite Falls City Manager Crystal Johnson said the city’s public works crew estimates there is two to three weeks of cleanup ahead removing all of the fallen trees and limbs piled along streets. Yellow Medicine County and the city of Montevideo provided staff and equipment to assist the city with the cleanup, and Chippewa County was planning to send assistance as well.
The city manager told council members during a special meeting Monday that power had been restored to nearly all of the homes and businesses in the community on Sunday. There were only five homes waiting for connections as of Monday.
Electric department crews from the municipal utilities in Olivia, Willmar, Marshall and Benson were among those who responded to assist the Granite Falls electric crew in restoring power.
Some businesses are still in the process of resuming operations. Chad Reimer, of Granite Run Restaurant and Golf Course, said the clubhouse and restaurant will open Tuesday. He’s hoping the golf course can be reopened too. He said the storm dropped 55 to 60 trees on the nine-hole course.
Residents in the city of Clarkfield were under an advisory to boil drinking water on Monday.
Christopher Webb, city administrator, said the city has its elevated water tank dewatered as part of a maintenance project. Water pressure was being maintained by pumping from the city wells on a non-stop, 24 hour basis. The storm knocked out power at two different times on Saturday, which caused a drop in water pressure.
The boil advisory is in effect until testing can confirm that no contamination occurred while the pressure was low.
Webb said crews with Xcel Energy restored power throughout the community, but that most of the town had been without power for parts of Sunday. He said the main damage has been the many downed trees, but there are also houses and commercial buildings that sustained some damage from the winds.
The National Weather Service in Chanhassen reported that a 72-mile-per-hour wind gust was recorded at 1:40 p.m. Saturday in Canby. The winds speeds in Clarkfield and Granite Falls were estimated at 70 miles an hour. An anemometer at the Palmer's Creek Wind Farm north of Granite Falls recorded a peak wind gust of 122 miles per hour on the top of a turbine tower there.
“It’s a mess,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski of the widespread damage in the community.
The most significant structural damage was that which occurred to the school, although there were also reports of tree limbs on the roofs of houses and garages in many areas of the community. Overall, the mayor said it was amazing that more structural damage did not occur.