(AP) - Severe thunderstorms packing large hail and a possible tornado swept through the small St. Paul suburb of Hugo Sunday evening, killing at least one person and destroying dozens more homes during a devastating tear through the north metro area.
A 2-year-old child was killed and the child's sibling was critically injured and taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said. The children's parents also were hospitalized with injuries sustained in the family home.
At least five others were injured and taken to area hospitals. Some community residents who were out of town for the long holiday weekend will be coming home to a disaster zone.
The two-storm system started in the northwest corner of the metro area, pelting Monticello, Albertville and Maple Lake with baseball-sized hail that shattered windows and car windshields.
Rolling one right after the other, the first storm front carried a tornado through Coon Rapids that sent trees toppling into houses and power lines crashing to the ground.
The second storm dumped more heavy hail and drenching rain on the landscape just minutes behind the first.
The Hugo area appeared to be the hardest hit, with homes wiped out and debris scattered throughout neighborhood. Residents reported a tornado in the area, but the National Weather Service was waiting on damage reports before confirming that.
"It certainly looks awfully likely," Meteorologist Todd Krause said.
Twenty more residents were initially listed as missing, but most of them were out of town at the time of the storms.
Hugo Mayor Fran Miron estimated about 50 homes were destroyed. Another 300 to 400 homes were evacuated because of safety concerns created by downed power lines and leaky gas lines.
The American Red Cross set up a shelter for displaced families at a local elementary school, but most were able to find friends and family to stay with, spokeswoman Courtney Johnson said.
Hugo's city administrator Mike Ericson said the devastation might have been worse, but that the city put a tornado warning siren in the Creekview Preserve neighborhood when it was developed about eight years ago.
Emergency crews descended on the scene to help the injured and assess the damage and Gov. Tim Pawlenty planned to visit the area on Monday afternoon.
Xcel Energy Company worked to restore power to more than 15,500 customers in the hardest-hit area, primarily in Hugo and Forest Lake to the northeast.
The system was just one of several powerful storms that battered the Midwest, including a tornado that killed seven in northeast Iowa.
Temperatures reached into the 80s during the day and mixed with cooler temperatures higher up in the air to create "an unstable atmosphere," Krause said.
Forecasts called for cooler temperatures and calmer weather on Monday as the cleanup effort gets under way.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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