5 years later: A look back at the largest tornado outbreak in MN history


Wednesday marks the anniversary of the largest tornado outbreak in Minnesota.

Forty-eight tornadoes touched down in the state on June 17, 2010, eclipsing the single-day tornado record.

The day was also deadly. At least three people were killed and dozens were injured as tornadoes swept through much of the state that Thursday, the state Department of Natural Resources notes.

Hundreds of homes were flattened, trees were uprooted and toppled power lines – damage stretched from the southeastern corner of the state to northwestern Minnesota.

"Hot and humid that day. And I remember all of a sudden people were calling and saying that the weather was going to get bad. We looked outside, and it was right there: a big, black sky, with a tornado shooing down the center of it," Jordann Kunkel, a tornado survivor, recalled to ABC 6.


At least 12 tornadoes, including an EF4 (166-200 mph) on the Enhanced Fujita Intensity Scale, touched down in Freeborn, Steele, Dodge and Olmsted counties, the news station adds, resulting in the death of a Freeborn County woman.

“Everything just looked so surreal,” Beth Zeller told the Albert Lea Tribune, remembering the damage from the storm. “It was crazy.”

Three of the 48 tornadoes that swept across the state that day reached EF4 (166-200 mph) on the Enhanced Fujita Intensity Scale, the DNR notes. The storms also produced damaging winds and very large hail.

At one point there were four tornadoes on the ground at one time in the state, the weather service says, and there was at least one tornado on the ground in Minnesota every 15-minute period from 3:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. that day.


In the days after the storms, the roar of chainsaws could be heard as crews removed downed trees and the National Guard was deployed to help residents affected, MPR News reported. (View photos of the damage here.)

Cost estimates show the tornadoes did $35.5 million worth of damage to public buildings and equipment.

The tornadoes were part of a storm system that moved across the Northern Plains and produced 74 tornadoes in the region, marking the 17th-largest tornado outbreak on record in the United States and the second-largest U.S. tornado outbreak in meteorological summer (June through August) on record, the National Weather Service's report on the outbreak notes.

Advancements in technology helped meteorologists better forecast the severe weather event, which helped limit the number of injuries and fatalities, the weather service notes.

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On average, Minnesota has about 27 tornadoes touch down every year, according to DNR statistics. In 2010, 113 tornadoes touched down in Minnesota, and 71 of those were in the month of June. (For complete statistics on the state's tornadoes, click here.)

Earlier this year, Minnesota marked the 50th anniversary of the most expensive tornado disaster in Minnesota history when several tornadoes tore through the state – it was also the first time tornado sirens were used. Thirteen people were killed and hundreds injured.

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