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What triggered the Minnesota storms Wednesday night, and why was damage so severe?

DULUTH, Minn. - Winds may have gusted as high as 90 mph as a line of severe thunderstorms moved across northern and eastern Minnesota early Thursday.

DULUTH, Minn. - Winds may have gusted as high as 90 mph as a line of severe thunderstorms moved across northern and eastern Minnesota early Thursday.

The storms were spurred by a huge well of warm, moist air in North Dakota with surface temperatures near 100 degrees and dewpoints near 80, said Dan Miller, science and operations manager for the National Weather Service in Duluth. The storms started in the afternoon and continued into the night.

“The hotter and more moist the air is near the surface, the more unstable the air becomes. That’s what triggers the thunderstorms,’’ Miller said.

The highest official wind gust recorded was 69 mph at the Duluth airport, with a ship on Lake Superior reporting a 72 mph gust. Miller said that based on the damage he saw, winds probably gusted as high as 90 mph.

He said many trees likely uprooted because soils were saturated - most of the Northland received several inches of rain last week - with the wind essentially just pushing the tree over, and many trees were top-heavy with foliage that became watered down quickly.

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Miller said there were two primary corridors of storm damage -- one along the Canadian border and another along the Highway 2 corridor between Bemidji and Duluth -- from Cass and Itasca across Aitkin, Carlton, southern St. Louis counties and into Wisconsin's Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland counties.

The northern storm started in North Dakota and moved across Koochiching, northern St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties

Related Topics: WEATHER
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