Cleanup continues in Taopi, Minn., after EF2 tornado devastated community

A house that was damaged by a tornado
A heavily damaged house is seen on Wednesday in Taopi, Minn., after a tornado swept through the community the night before. The house had its entire east side stripped away by the storm.
Eric Johnson | Austin Daily Herald via AP

Cleanup continued Thursday in the southern Minnesota community of Taopi, after an EF2 tornado caused significant damage Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service said the tornado had winds of up to 130 mph as it tracked for more than seven miles across Mower County — including a direct hit on Taopi, a community of several dozen residents.

The storm demolished some homes and left many others heavily damaged. Officials reported two people were injured. Gov. Tim Walz surveyed the storm damage Thursday afternoon.

Jeremy Kiefer lives near Taopi, and said there's been a tremendous outpouring of help.

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People look at damage left by a tornado
Residents of Taopi, Minn., look through damage to a residence Wednesday morning.
Eric Johnson | Austin Daily Herald via AP

"Everyone's pretty shook up," he told MPR News on Thursday morning. "The support from all the surrounding communities is unbelievable. There's hundreds of people here and I barely know any of them — just they're coming from all around, helping with the cleanup. Driving around town just a little bit this morning, it looks way better than it did yesterday."

Kiefer has a cattle farm near Taopi with 120 animals; he spent Wednesday morning searching for 40 head of cattle that had wandered away from his farm during the storm. They've all since been found.

He lost several honeybee hives, but said Thursday that's nothing compared to what some of his neighbors have lost.

Gov. Walz said Taopi is likely too small to qualify for federal aid, but is a good candidate for state disaster recovery funds to pay for repairs to public property.

"It's pretty severe for a small number of people,” said Walz. “And that's the issue where the state can step in on this.” 

Mayor Mary Huntley says the United Farmers State Bank in nearby Adams has set up a recovery fund.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly, who traveled with the governor, said private donations can help close the gap for homeowners without enough insurance.

"Some people might be underinsured or uninsured,” said Kelly. “That's where we go to collecting money at the bank, local human service organizations and so forth. Ultimately, anything supplemental to that, because we don't have a program, would be a decision on the part of the legislature."

The Weather Service also confirmed an EF1 tornado touched down late Tuesday southwest of Spring Valley, Minn. That tornado had estimated peak winds of 100 mph as it damaged trees and farm buildings.

Bedrooms are exposed as debris litters the outside of the building.
Severe storms removed walls and the roof of a residence Tuesday in Taopi. Residents of the small southern Minnesota town surveyed the damage on Wednesday.
Catharine Richert | MPR News