GRAND FORKS, Minn. - The National Weather Service has confirmed that two rare March tornadoes are the earliest to ever strike Minnesota.
Forecasters say the tornado that damaged buildings and took down trees and power lines near Zimmerman Monday evening was the earliest twister recorded in Minnesota. Previously, the earliest tornado ever reported in Minnesota happened on March 18, 1968 in Truman.
Zimmerman is about 35 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul. Preliminary survey results indicate it was an EF-1 tornado with peak winds estimated at 107 mph that traveled nearly nine miles.
KARE 11 crews spent much of the morning and early afternoon assessing damage to properties on both Lake Ann and Elk Lake. Raguse reports that more than a dozen homes on Elk Lake had large trees fall on them, and one property had its entire roof ripped off. Trees are everywhere, power lines are on the ground and crews are putting up power poles as fast as they can so lines can be re-strung and electricity restored.
Lynnsey Mostad and her husband have spent the last 27 years raising their family on the shores of Elk Lake. They saw the tornado bearing down on their home and sprinted for the basement. They were just making it down their steps when the twister hit.
"They say so many times it sounds like a train, but it didn’t, it sounded like a huge grinder. Just this horrible grinding sound. You could hear everything flying around and ripping off," Mostad recalled. "What I can say for everyone is when those sirens go off, do take cover. Don’t think it’s not serious, because it is. I’m just glad at the last minute that we did."
Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott says numerous roads in the areas of Orrock and Zimmerman remain closed following Monday's storm. Residential neighborhoods have been closed at County Road 15 at 253 ½ and 257th Avenues, and at 165th Street at 257th Avenue in the Ann Lake area of Orrock Township. Additionally, 290th Avenue has been closed at 138th and 142nd Streets on the north end of Big Elk Lake in Baldwin Township to allow crews clear access for repairs and tree removal. Brott says volunteers are not being sought at this time and the Sheriff’s Office is asking non-residents to avoid these areas in an effort to keep roadways clear. Dozens of homes suffered significant damage as a result of the storm, but no injuries were reported.
A second NWS crew is on the ground in southern Minnesota just north of Albert Lea. The National Weather Service reports damage in Clarks Grove was caused by a tornado with more details to be released later Tuesday.
Survey team confirms damage in Clarks Grove area (Freeborn County) was due to a tornado. Additional details available later this afternoon.— NWS Twin Cities (@NWSTwinCities) March 7, 2017