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2 dead, thousands impacted by power outages after two days of severe storms

Large hail, lightning, rain and intense wind gusts battered communities all across Minnesota for two straight nights.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's severe weather season opened with a bang – two days of monster, widespread storms prompting dozens of watches and warnings for both thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Tornado reports

Friday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) dispatched two crews to survey damage in western Minnesota, including Douglas County.

On Thursday, May 12, the NWS confirmed an EF0 tornado occurred in Coon Rapids Wednesday night, with maximum wind speeds of 80 miles per hour. The tornado was about 50 yards wide with a path of about three miles.

An EF0 is lowest on the scale used to measure a tornado's strength. 

On Friday, NWS officials confirmed tornado damage on the south side of Lake Darling in Douglas County. While the NWS hasn't finalized a tornado rating, they say they believe the wind speed was at least 100 miles per hour, according to county officials.

Power outages

According to Xcel Energy, more than 200,000 customers were impacted by Wednesday night's weather. By Thursday morning about 30,000 people were still without power. Hundreds of crews worked throughout the day Thursday to restore electricity and prepare for the second round of storms. As of Friday evening, fewer than 1,000 customers were still without power.

If you're experiencing a power outage, you can report your outage online at xcelenergy.com/out, text ‘OUT’ to 98936 to report an outage, or text STAT to the same number to check the status of a power outage. Customers can also call 1-800-895-1999 and follow the prompts.

Two killed

Two people died during the multi-day storm, a 30-year-old woman from Mexico and a man in Kandiyohi County.

Martha Rodriguez was a passenger in a car driving eastbound on I-90 in Nobles County Wednesday when the car stopped to avoid hitting downed power lines that had fallen over the interstate. 

Investigators say a semi then crashed into the stopped vehicle around 6 p.m., which had four people inside, including Rodriguez. The driver and one passenger were taken to a local hospital with what troopers called non-life-threatening injuries. A third passenger from Annapolis, Maryland, was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries from the crash.

The second fatality happened in the wake of the second bout of storms. The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office confirmed Friday that a man died after a large grain bin was blown over in Blomkest, Minnesota, about 20 miles south of Willmar. 

The man, identified as 63-year-old Ryan Erickson from Lake Lillian, Minnesota, was dead at the scene. The Minnesota State Fire Department Association posted on Facebook that Erickson was a member of the Blomkest Fire Department.

Widespread damage

Intense wind gusts and hail caused significant damage in communities across the Twin Cities metro and greater Minnesota. On Thursday morning KARE 11 crews found a tree uprooted and lying on top of three cars at 55th Street and Washburn Avenue in south Minneapolis. The NWS said the area spanning from Northfield to Woodbury and Forest Lake saw winds with speeds of 60 to 70 mph. Shakopee and Morristown experienced even stronger winds, with gusts nearing 80 mph. 

Multiple vehicles were stranded in flood waters caused by torrential rain in Vadnais Heights Wednesday night, and at one point a Good Samaritan helped rescue a woman who drove into deep water.

Widespread flooding is set to have a major impact on Minnesota farmers and the spring planting season, which was already delayed by an unseasonably cold spring. Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order Friday authorizing temporary relief for truck drivers that support the crop planting season.

The order allows for the "continued movement of fertilizer, pesticides and seed," and gets around certain hours of service rules that could impact transportation.

The NWS preliminary storm reports include incidents of hurricane force winds Thursday, and large hail and wind damage up and down the western half of the state.

If you're among those that experienced storm damage and are cleaning up debris or fallen branches from your property, remember that in many places it's illegal to put yard waste in household garbage. Some counties have yard waste drop sites that are already up and running, and some communities are setting up special temporary sites to make cleanup easier.

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