Weather Service confirms at least seven tornadoes touched down in Minnesota

an RV on its side among post-storm debris
An RV is toppled over following a severe storm in Hartland, Minn., on Wednesday night.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Updated: Dec. 18, 5:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service says the tornado that caused major damage in the southern Minnesota community of Hartland on Wednesday night was an EF-2, with estimated peak wind speeds of 115 mph.

In updates posted Friday, the Weather Service said the Hartland tornado was one of at least seven to touch down in the state Wednesday — the first tornadoes recorded in Minnesota in the month of December.

While there were no reports of injuries or deaths from the seven confirmed tornadoes, a man was killed by a falling tree as severe storms moved through the Rochester area on Wednesday night.

And utility crews continued working Friday to restore power to several thousand homes and businesses.

A large stump remains after a tree snapped during a severe storm
A large stump remains after a tree was snapped off during a severe storm in Hartland, Minn., on Wednesday night.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Tornado details

The strongest of the five confirmed tornadoes in Minnesota was the one that hit Hartland at about 7:10 p.m. Wednesday.

According to the Weather Service storm survey, the tornado touched down about a mile southwest of the city and tracked northeast. It had a peak width of about 55 yards and was on the ground for just over 2 miles, over the span of about 3 minutes.

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"The damage in the southern residential part of town was mainly tree and roof damage," the storm survey said. "As the tornado tracked into the center of town, more significant damage was observed to buildings along Broadway Street," including major damage to a couple of commercial structures.

Wednesday's other confirmed tornadoes included:

  • An EF-1 tornado that touched down northeast of Walters and tracked about 3.6 miles to just southwest of Alden, just before 7 p.m. Barring another, earlier confirmed tornado, this would be the very first one reported in Minnesota in the month of December. It had a maximum width of 90 yards and peak winds estimated at 105 mph, damaging trees and utility poles before lifting just south of Interstate 90.

  • A few minutes later, another EF-1 tornado touched down east of Alden, tracking for about 1.6 miles with peak winds of 100 mph. It had a peak width of about 40 yards and caused damage to trees and a farm outbuilding, the Weather Service reported.

  • An EF-0 tornado touched down in Preston in Fillmore County just before 7:45 p.m. It was on the ground for about a half-mile with winds up to 80 mph and a maximum width of 40 yards. It caused damage to vehicles, trees and sheds.

  • An EF-1 tornado touched down northeast of Preston at 7:45 p.m. and tracked for about 1.6 miles, with winds up to 105 mph and a maximum width estimated at 75 yards. It caused damage to trees and farm buildings.

  • An EF-1 tornado with estimated peak winds of 93 mph touched down just after 8 p.m. about 3 miles southeast of Plainview in Wabasha County. It was on the ground for about 4.5 miles, damaging trees and farm buildings as it tracked northeast.

  • Also just after 8 p.m., an EF-0 tornado touched down southeast of Lewiston in Winona County. It was on the ground for about 0.6 miles with a peak width of 40 yards and maximum winds estimated at 85 mph. It caused damage to trees, a garage and other outbuildings along County Road 23.

The Weather Service also reported at least five tornadoes touched down in northeast Iowa on Wednesday night and at least four in western Wisconsin.

An employee helps to clean up a damaged building
An employee helps to clean up the building used by Olson Excavation following a tornado in Hartland on Wednesday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Power outages

Xcel Energy reported about 2,300 homes and businesses remained without power in its Minnesota and western Wisconsin service areas as of early Friday afternoon. Nearly all had power restored by Saturday afternoon.

People's Energy Cooperative said crews late Friday afternoon repaired a large outage affecting more than 1,000 customers in the Stewartville area south of Rochester.

The city of Stewartville had opened a shelter Thursday night for people needing a warm place to stay as temperatures dropped into the teens.