Buildings flattened, power lines down as storms batter MN; 105mph tornado confirmed


Buildings were flattened by a 105 mph tornado, trees were blown down and tens of thousands of homes are without power after a line of severe thunderstorms battered the Twin Cities.

Torrential rain, quarter-sized hail and high winds blew across the east-central, metro and southeast areas of Minnesota on Friday night, with the National Weather Service issuing a severe weather warning for the Twin Cities around 12:25 a.m.

Xcel Energy's power outages map show that there are almost 130,000 homes in the wider metro area were without electricity Saturday morning, according to MPR, as numerous power lines were brought down.

The Star Tribune reports that power had been restored to some of these, but 82,000 remained without electricity as of 1:30 p.m.

MPR describes the storm system as "unusual on several fronts," as unlike the storms seen last Sunday that caused major damage in the Brainerd Lakes area, this storm actually strengthened rather than weakening as it approached the Twin Cities.

The news organization notes that it "ultimately becoming tornadic about 30 minutes before it hit the west metro."

105 mph tornado causes havoc in Carver County

Bearing the brunt of the storms was Carver County, west of the metro area, where an EF-1 tornado touched down near Watertown. It lasted for two to three minutes and was reportedly strong enough to flip cars and damage buildings.

Following a survey of the area on Saturday morning, the NWS confirmed that the tornado reached wind speeds of 105 mph starting 3 miles north of Hollywood, continuing east to 2 miles west southwest of Watertown.

"The most damage occurred as the tornado crossed Vega Avenue where numerous trees were snapped and some minor structural damage was found," the NWS update said. "There a home weather station recorded a 99 mph wind before it blew off the house. The weather station report...supports an estimated maximum wind speed of 105 mph."

FOX 9 reports that the local Sheriff's Department set up a command post with 50 to 60 emergency personnel on the scene by 3 a.m., after multiple reports of tree and roof damage.

Heather Carlson of the 

">Rochester Post Bulletin is reporting that another tornado may have touched down in Goodhue County, causing damage at a local farm.

Images posted by local media show some of the destruction visited upon Watertown and the surrounding area.

Trees uprooted across the metro area

Official damage reports from the National Weather Service also include "huge" tree limbs falling on vehicles in Waconia.

The storm continued its march east through the Twin Cities at a severe level, with the Star Tribune noting wind gusts of more than 60 mph reported in St. Paul, Golden Valley, New Brighton, Maple Grove, Richfield and Lakeville, bringing trees down as it went.

The NWS at one point did issue a tornado warning for Hennepin County around midnight, but this was then changed to a severe storm warning as tornado activity weakened.

KSTP said that residents in several counties across central and eastern Minnesota were advised to take shelter in interior rooms between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. amid concerns over damage caused by debris picked up by the high winds.

The TV station notes that the Twin Cities may not have seen the last of the storms either, with isolated thunderstorms forecast for the area Saturday, while the NWS said there is a possibility of storms bringing severe wind and hail to western Wisconsin.

We'll bring you more today as the extent of the damage caused becomes clear in the aftermath of the storm.

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