At least one dead as severe storms bring widespread damage to Minnesota, western Wisconsin

Uprooted and downed trees after a severe storm.
Uprooted and downed trees in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., Friday after severe storms rolled through the Twin Cities overnight.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Updated: 5:40 p.m.

A line of strong storms brought damaging winds and at least a couple tornadoes to Minnesota and western Wisconsin early Friday.

Authorities reported at least one fatality — in Mankato, where a 4-year-old girl died when a tree branch fell on a tent at a city park. City officials said it happened at Land of Memories Park along the Minnesota River at about 2:30 a.m., as storms were moving through the area.

The Mankato Free Press reported the girl was from South Dakota and was with her family at the park for the annual Mahkato Wacipi, or powwow. The Free Press reported another person at the park suffered non-life-threatening injuries when a branch fell on a second tent.

To the north, clean-up was underway across much of the Twin Cities metro area east into western Wisconsin, with the southern and eastern metro area particularly hard-hit by winds that gusted to 64 mph at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as the storms moved through just after 3 a.m.

The National Weather Service reported Friday evening that its storm survey crews determined the storms spawned at least a couple tornadoes in the south metro — one in Burnsville near State Highway 13 and Cliff Road, and the other in Apple Valley near Cedar Avenue and 145th Street. Those tornadoes have not yet been assigned EF ratings of strength.

And that number could go up — other Weather Service survey crews were still working Friday evening in Lakeville and Savage in the south metro, and to the southwest in the Henderson area.

Xcel Energy reported more than 16,000 homes and businesses remained without power in its Minnesota and western Wisconsin service area as of 5:40 p.m. The utility said more than 100,000 customers in its Minnesota and Wisconsin service areas had lost power at some point after the storms.

Xcel reported Friday afternoon that more than 450 employees and contractors were working to restore power.

In Inver Grove Heights, first light Friday morning revealed the scope of the damage from the squall line that barreled through as most people were sleeping. Large trees were uprooted, with some landing atop homes and power lines.

Streets were blocked by downed trees and branches in some neighborhoods, as residents, city workers and utility crews started up chainsaws to start clearing the debris.

Some Twin Cities school districts reported delays or closures due to storm damage.

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district said that schools would start two hours late Friday because of "significant" storm damage. It later reported that Rosemount Elementary and Middle schools would be closed all day as crews work to restore power.

Stillwater Area Public Schools said that several schools were closed, including Stillwater Area High School, but that students can watch for online assignments. At least five other schools were delayed by two hours.

Across the border in Wisconsin, the Hudson School District canceled classes Friday because of power outages. And the Hudson Area Public Library also was closed Friday because of major storm damage. The lobby and a section of the children’s area were hit, according to a Facebook post.

"We've definitely closed it for today, no staff in,” said Paul Berning, president of the library's board of trustees. “We're going to convene an emergency meeting of the board to see what's going to happen. We're waiting for the engineer to get here to assess the damage and see what the long-term prognosis is, along with the short-term."

The library's director Shelley Tougas reported on Facebook that the library staff have "received so many lovely emails, comments and calls offering support. Thank you. Police and engineers are asking people to avoid trips to the building. Your offers to help clean make my heart soar, but we don't want anyone to get hurt. There's a team of professionals on site managing the situation.”

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