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Cleanup begins after tornado sweeps through north Minneapolis

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Storm cleanup
City crews work to repair damage after a tornado struck parts of north Minneapolis uprooting trees, damaging cars, and causing extensive property damage in Minneapolis, Sunday, May 22, 2011. Gas leaks were reported around the neighborhood caused by uprooting trees damaging pipes.
Craig Lassig/AP

Minneapolis residents continue to clean up the mess left by Sunday's severe storms. At least one person was killed and more than two dozen other people were injured after at least one tornado touched down in the Twin Cities metro area, leaving a wide swath of destruction in its wake. 

Seven Minneapolis public schools are closed this morning. They are Lucy Laney, Cityview Community, Nellie Stone Johnson, Hmong International Academy, Urban League Academy Elementary, Northstar and Plymouth Youth Center. 

  Students who are unable to attend any other school in the area because of storm conditions will have absences that are excused, according to the district. 

The storms left at least 25,000 homes without electricity. Xcel spokesman Steve Roalstad said Monday morning that crews have been working around the clock and have restored power to 11,000 homes. Most of the 14,000 homes without electricity are in north Minneapolis, with some in Golden Valley, and the rest scattered throughout the metro area.

 

See more photos of the storm damage.

Some residents will need to have an electrician make repairs to their homes before Xcel can safely restore power. 

Storm damage
A tornado caused severe damage to homes, buildings, trees and power lines in north Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, May 22, 2011.
Photo courtesy Tony Webster

"Wherever the tornado touched down, it just destroyed our distribution system," he said. "Poles and wires are down. Transformers are down. We have to send out crews and completely rebuild our system from the ground up in some cases and that will take some time."

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office declined to comment on the cause of death or the identity of the person who was killed. But neighbors in north Minneapolis told MPR News the man was killed when a tree limb fell onto his moving car. 

Most of the injured were taken to North Memorial Hospital where a spokesperson said none of the patients they treated had serious injuries. 

MPR News meteorologist Craig Edwards says a tornado watch was issued about two hours before a tornado was spotted. It moved quickly and covered a large distance. 

"Through north Minneapolis, into Fridley and then into Anoka County, and there were also reports up by Forest Lake and ultimately up into Chisago County," said Edwards. 

Damage in north Minneapolis
North Minneapolis residents look at tornado damage at Penn and Broadway in the Jordan neighborhood of north Minneapolis on Sunday, May 22, 2011.
Photo courtesy Tony Webster

Edwards says the size of the storm, which spawned at least one tornado near highways 100 and 394, was remarkable. 

National Weather Service forecasters say the twister was the first to hit the city since August of 2009. The line of damage stretched from just west of Minneapolis through the city and into the northeastern suburbs. 

But much of the storm's destruction was concentrated in North Minneapolis, where dozens of homes and buildings were damaged, and many trees and power lines were knocked down. 

That's where resident Vereata Giddings was waiting on a bus with her family on their way to an emergency Red Cross shelter. The storm destroyed everything Giddings had. 

Damaged house
A power pole fell onto this house in north Minneapolis as a tornado swept through the Twin Cities metro area on Sunday, May 22, 2011.
Photo courtesy Tony Webster

"The tree fell on my house. The whole roof caved in, the car, everything. I don't even know where we will sleep tonight," she said. 

Giddings says neighbors helped carry her injured mother to the corner when an ambulance couldn't access their street, which was blocked by trees. With both her cars destroyed, she worries about how she'll get to the hospital to see her mother. But for now her concerns were more immediate. 

"We don't know where to go. I don't know what to do," said Giddings. "We don't even have clothes because the whole roof caved in. I don't even know whether we'll be able to take anything out of there. This is all we got on us." Bryn Mawr resident Emily Anderson was driving in the west metro when she was surprised by the storm damage. 

"I saw really large trees down all over, and by the time I got down to Theodore Wirth Park it was horrible," she said. "Theodore Wirth Park was not passable going south, and I think north as well. I thought I could get home but I had to turn around by Theodore Wirth Lake because there was a large tree completely blocking Glenwood." 

By Sunday afternoon the storm had left a wake of damaged homes and downed trees across the north side. Some buildings were completely collapsed. 

By Sunday night, Mayor R.T. Rybak declared a local emergency, and instituted a nighttime curfew in part of the north side, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in an area bounded by Penn Avenue and Interstate 94, and Dowling and Plymouth Avenues. 

About 150 people spent the night at the Minneapolis shelter. 

Crews worked to assess storm damage and clear debris from the streets. Officials asked residents to watch for gas leaks. The storm uprooted as many as 50 natural gas service lines in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park. 

The power went out in many areas as well. Xcel Energy reported the storm knocked out power to about 22,000 customers in the metro. A spokesperson said it could take more than a day to restore service to everyone who lost it Sunday. 

On Monday, city officials will distribute food in at least three locations. Cub Foods will host a dinner for people in the neighborhood. Gov. Dayton plans to tour the area along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Keith Ellison and other city and state officials. 

Storm damage was also reported in Brooklyn Center, Blaine and Fridley and Coon Rapids. 

In Fridley, officials reported no injuries or deaths. But they say the storm left significant damage to homes and businesses, overturned railroad cars and left a mess of downed trees and live power lines. 

(MPR reporter Madeleine Baran contributed to this report.)