Significant damage reports are coming in to the National Weather Service after the historic Dec. 15 severe weather outbreak led to numerous severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings in southeast Minnesota.
The town of Hartland, which is home to about 315 people approximately five miles north of Albert Lea, was hit extremely hard, with bricks and roofing from a bank scattered about the street. Lillie Briahna provided multiple videos of the damage as it was seen in the dark shortly after the storm passed.
"I was 60 yards from something unbelievable tonight and witnessed the destruction. I have no words. Thankful to be here," wrote Noah Nielsen in a Facebook post that shows more of the extensive damage to downtown Hartland.
The National Weather Service will be in the communities hit by possible tornadoes on Thursday. Tornadoes will not be confirmed until damage assessments are complete. But it's possible that there were multiple tornadoes Wednesday night.
Reported tornadoes happened at 7:59 p.m. in Eyota, at 8:05 p.m. in Plainview and then 8:18 p.m. in Wabasha. All three towns are lined up in the southwest to northeast direction that a tornado-warned storm was moving.
After a tornado was "confirmed" in the tornado warning report in Eyota at 7:59 p.m., a message in the continued tornado warning said, "At 805 PM CST, a confirmed tornado was located over Plainview, or 15 miles southwest of Wabasha, moving northeast at 70 mph." That was followed by the warning in Wabasha, which read a "confirmed tornado was located over Wabasha, moving northeast at 75 mph."
The NWS initially "confirmed" the Plainview tornado, but then retracted that statement and said it was a "reported" tornado.
Storm reports to the NWS include a car being moved by strong winds in Eyota, power poles and trees downed in Freeborn County, in addition to power outages and a semi blown over in the Winona area. There are also reports of trees down in Prior Lake, Mound and Elko New Market.
If a tornado is confirmed, it will go down in history as the first confirmed tornado in December in Minnesota history. The latest tornado on record touched down east of Maple Plain on Nov. 16, 1931.
The strong winds behind the line of storms Wednesday night into early Thursday morning continued to blast southeastern Minnesota, with an incredible 77 mph gust measured at the Rochester airport.
Wednesday's unprecedented December outbreak saw the Storm Prediction Center place a large area of Iowa and southeast Minnesota in a moderate risk (Level 4 of 5) for severe storms. The historic storm system wound up producing dozens of hurricane force wind gusts, the most in the U.S. in a single day since 2004.