Crews still restoring electricity this weekend

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tornadoes touched down 20 to 25 separate times in Freeborn County during the Thursday evening storms, Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said Friday.

During two press conferences at the Freeborn County Law Enforcement Center at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, Kluever gave updates about the storms and the damage seen thus far in the county.

He said the storms hit the county Thursday starting in the southwest and extended to the northeast, including the cities of Armstrong, Conger, Clarks Grove, Hollandale and Geneva, to name a few.

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At least one storm weather cell was out of Kiester, a second one started west of Manchester and a third one started in the Hollandale area.

“This was a type of a tornado … it did a lot of bouncing,” he said.
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Katherine A. Woodside, 67, died from a tornado one mile west of Armstrong, after her and her husband’s trailer “felt the brunt” of the tornado, Kluever said. She died at the scene, and her husband, Ron, was transported to Naeve Hospital in Albert Lea first and then St. Marys Hospital in Rochester second for his injuries.

Thirteen other people were treated for injuries at the Albert Lea Medical Center.

Kluever said five of the 14 people with injuries have been transported to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. Three have been admitted to the Albert Lea Medical Center.

“To our knowledge everyone is accounted for,” he said.

Kluever said several county staff teams have been out surveying damage, though as of Saturday morning he did not have an estimate from the Freeborn County Assessor’s Office regarding monetary damages. He said this should come in the following week.

He said the county is now aware of 87 structures that have been damaged. Of that breakdown, 24 were destroyed, 14 have major damage, 33 have minor damage and 16 were affected.

At least five or six hog confinements were damaged or destroyed, along with two or three feedlots, he added. There has been a “diligent effort” to round up scattered animals.

Kluever said the Minnesota National Guard was deployed around 1 a.m. Friday and were placed at 12 strategic checkpoints across the county. National Guard soldiers were limiting access on specific roads and checking IDs.

According to a state news release, Gov. Tim Pawlenty activated a total of 74 soldiers across the state in three Minnesota counties.

Soldiers assisted local authorities in Wadena, Freeborn and Steele counties.

Kluever said the National Guard was expected to be called off Saturday morning; after that, there will be a heightened presence of patrol deputies.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is also assisting in the response.

He said Lowe’s and Home Depot are already offering help of water and supplies.

Though county officials discouraged travel on rural roads on Friday morning, they said it was OK to be traveling later that afternoon.

Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig is advising that people travel with caution, Kluever added. There are some ditches that could potentially have problems if there is more rain.

State Highway 251 has been reopened toward Hollandale.

Too much traffic — rubberneckers looking at damage on Saturday — near where power crews are working only slows down their efforts.

He said Saturday morning that from his discussions with Alliant and Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services officials, it sounds like most people should have power back by Sunday, though there will be spots without.

An Alliant Energy spokesman said Friday morning that the company had 4,000 to 5,000 customers without power in Kiester, Hollandale and areas in between.

He said crews were working to get most of the power restored within 24 to 48 hours; however, isolated pockets could remain without power through the weekend.

When clearing debris, people should not clear power lines or shut off leaking gas.

He said people can call (800) 255-4268 if they have questions.

Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services also worked Friday to restore power to its members after tornadoes hit the western portion of its service territory.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services had about 145 members out of power. The main problems were within Alden, Freeborn and Mansfield substations. There were still lines on the ground.

Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Spokeswoman Mary Nelson asked that people drive slowly near line workers.

Kluever said there were about 100 Freeborn-Mower Cooperative poles down.

Freeborn-Mower Cooperative members out of power can call 1-800-734-6421 or 1-800-927-6201.