Minnesota News

Cleanup underway after severe storms, possible tornadoes in central and northern Minnesota

large downed trees litter a yard
Several large downed trees litter a yard Thursday morning in the 1400 block of Ninth Avenue North in Sartell.
Kimm Anderson for MPR News

The sound of chainsaws echoed across lakes north of Brainerd on Thursday as residents worked to clear trees and branches downed by severe storms that raked the area the previous night.

The National Weather Service sent out teams to survey the damage and determine whether any of it was caused by tornadoes. Weather spotters had reported seeing at least four tornadoes as the storms moved across central Minnesota.

A house shows roof damage and a nearby downed tree.
A home damaged by severe storms is seen near Rabbit Lake north of Crosby on Thursday morning. Severe storms caused damage as they swept across the region late Wednesday.
Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

In addition to the Brainerd Lakes region, areas from St. Cloud and Sartell north toward Little Falls also saw major damage.

But whether that damage was caused by tornadoes or straight-line winds — it didn’t change the hard work to be done to clean up the mess.

Stan Nagorski has owned his home on Rabbit Lake north of Crosby since 1992. He was working to clear more than a dozen fallen trees from his yard and driveway on Thursday morning.

A tree is uprooted and down in a yard.
Wednesday night's storms downed many large trees and branches across central and northern Minnesota.
Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

“A lot of damage. But not as bad as next door. We’re fortunate our house didn't get hit,” he said. “But as you can see next door — the tree is on top of the garage. It just broke it off at the base, picked it up, set it on the garage, and... it’s just unbelievable, the damage and the power.”

Jon Engle of Corcoran was surveying the home he owns and rents out on Rabbit Lake. About 15 to 20 large trees were uprooted and scattered across the yard, and one damaged the house’s roof.

“Sixty, 70-year growth here. These things are — I mean, some of these were 75, 80 feet tall, and they’ve been here for decades,” he said. “A lot of old growth and beauty all kind of torn down in a matter of about 15 minutes.”

Angle said the renters were home when the storm hit, but were not injured. There were no immediate reports of injuries elsewhere, either, from the storms that also dropped hail as large as baseballs in other parts of the state.

The National Weather Service office in Duluth sent out teams to assess damage in Carlton, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties, in areas where weather spotters reported possible tornado touchdowns.

“Especially from the Crosslake area to a little bit south of Aitkin is where we’ve had the most reports of damage, and where they’re going to survey that damage to confirm that it was a tornado and then give it a rating,” said Patrick Ayd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Utility crews were also out in the field on Thursday to repair lines downed by the storms. At one point in the immediate wake of the storms, more than 15,000 homes and businesses were without power across the state. That number was below 2,000 on Thursday morning.

a man attaches ropes to tree branches
Casey Talberg of Brad Hoheisel Tree Service attaches guide ropes to upper branches while cleaning up damage from a large tree that fell between two homes in the 900 block of Morningstar Court in Sartell.
Kimm Anderson for MPR News

Crow Wing Power was among the hardest-hit utilities. Officials there said crews worked through the night to restore service, and the utility said it was optimistic that all its customers would have power restored by Thursday night.

The largest hail reported Wednesday in Minnesota was near Marble on the Iron Range, where a spotter reported hail the size of baseballs. Tennis-ball-size hail was reported near Backus, Finlayson and Chisholm.

MPR News reporter Estelle Timar-Wilcox contributed to this report.