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Early morning storms cause wind damage in Kandiyohi, Swift counties

An early Monday storm wreaked wind damage across Kandiyohi and Swift counties.

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Dawn Oslund, of Blomkest, was alone in her camper at the Games Lake County Park when strong winds ripped through the area around 3 a.m. After she felt the camper start to tip and heard the awning rip, Oslund said she grabbed her purse and her dog and forced the camper door open to get to the park’s storm shelter. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The National Weather Service reported high wind gusts early Monday morning in Willmar and Benson as a few rounds of thunderstorms moved through the area.

At 2:50 a.m. Monday, an 84-mph wind gust was reported near Benson and about 15 minutes later the Willmar Municipal Airport reported a wind gust of nearly 50 mph. The storms also brought heavy rainfall.

The majority of the damage came in the form of downed tree limbs, though there was some structural damage.

Benson Police Chief Ian Hodge said a few sheds lost roofs and one business suffered some damage. Several roads were blocked by downed trees and some homes had power outages due to tree limbs falling on the power lines that served those residences.

"The town is busy" with the cleanup, Hodge said. "I've seen a lot of trailers with tree limbs going through town."

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In Willmar, Fire Chief Frank Hanson said a house fire at the 1900 block of Sixth Street Southwest was caused by a lightning strike. The Fire Department was able to get the fire under control within an hour.

Willmar Public Works Supervisor Gary Manzer said his crews were out by 4 a.m. Monday, cleaning up downed tree limbs. He said the cleanup will probably stretch into Tuesday.

"We are kind of all over the place," Manzer said.

The most significant damage in Kandiyohi took place at the old grain elevator right on U.S. Highway 12. The winds caused two of the bins to crumble and fall against the main elevator building.

Kandiyohi Mayor Gordy Woltjer said the bins had already been in a precarious state, being held up by the catwalk at the top. The bins were to be taken down Monday morning, to make sure they wouldn't fall further and block the railroad tracks.

Beyond the grain bins, it seemed Kandiyohi was spared any other structural damage.

"Just some trees," Woltjer said.

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The storms also caused tree damage around Norway Lake.

Despite the damage that was left behind, the consensus was it could have been worse, especially with how high some of the wind gusts were.

"I feel we dodged a bullet," said Hodge. "It was not as bad as it could have been."

The storm hit the Games Lake County Park near New London hard and fast.

Dawn Oslund, of Blomkest, was alone in her camper when strong winds ripped through the area shortly after 3 a.m. Monday.

“I woke to hearing the awning tearing off the camper so I got up and I couldn’t get the patio door open right away,” she said. “But when I felt the camper tipping, and coming back down again, I knew I had to get out of here.”

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Oslund said she forced the patio door open and grabbed her purse and her dog and headed to the storm shelter. When the storm died down, she came back see the damage on her camper.

“It was very scary.”

Katie Finstrom, of Kerkhoven, was in a camper with her husband and six kids, all under the age of 9, when Finstrom said she got an alert on her phone warning of the storm. They quickly secured their camper and that of another relative.

Because it was too late to run to the storm shelter, the crew hunkered in the middle of the camper with she and her husband ready to lay down on top of the children to protect them.

“It was rocking our camper really hard,” she said. “It wasn’t a long time but it felt long. But in retrospect it wasn’t too long.”

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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