Storm wreaks havoc on Clarks Grove area

Published 12:08 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Was it a tornado? Weather Service crews to survey damage

CLARKS GROVE — Severe damage has been reported in Clarks Grove after a powerful storm swept through the area Monday evening.

No injuries were reported.

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Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag has advised only employees or friends and family of residents to come to the city to help with cleanup because of potential hazards.

According to Freitag, there have been a few people in Clarks Grove who stated they witnessed a tornado that caused the damage, but that has not yet been confirmed by the National Weather Service.

Crews from the Weather Service are expected to survey damage today to determine the severity of the storm. 

Authorities received the first report of structure damage at 5:47 p.m. Shortly after, most entrances to the community were closed because of potential hazards, and firefighters went door to door checking on residents.

Businesses along Main Street, as well as the fire department, the fertilizer plant and some residences had the most damage. Numerous trees and other debris were blown around.

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office was assisted on scene by the Minnesota State Patrol and numerous fire departments, as well as volunteers with the American Red Cross and Albert Lea Salvation Army.

The storm brought heavy rain, winds and hail in some parts of Freeborn and Faribault counties. Pea-sized hail was reported in Wells, and ping pong-sized hail was reported near Freeborn. The area was under a tornado watch until 10 p.m.

According to Xcel Energy, there were 473 of the company’s customers in the Clarks Grove, Hartland, Ellendale and Albert Lea area without power. Electricity was restored to Clarks Grove just after midnight.

Freitag said crews worked efficiently to restore power under difficult conditions. Minnesota Energy Resources crews also checked meters of damaged buildings and didn’t find any gas leaks.

Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services also reported several outages in the Geneva area.

Law enforcement reported a likely tornado in east-central Minnesota, about 44 miles northwest of Minneapolis near Princeton that caused downed trees and power lines and ripped off part of a roof.

National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Krause said if confirmed, the tornado would be the earliest in the year ever for Minnesota. He said the previous record was a tornado on March 18, 1968, near St. James, in southern Minnesota.

Mary Johnson, caretaker of Pihls Park in Faribault County, has reported numerous uprooted trees in the park and a camper on its side. A roof of one of the buildings was ripped off and debris is throughout the park. She stated the park will be closed through May 1 to clean up damage, and only seasonal campers with their campers at the park will be allowed in.

Strong winds are expected today to gust between 50 and 60 mph across west central, southwest and south central Minnesota and 40 to 50 mph for central and east central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, according to the Weather Service.

The strong winds and relatively dry conditions will result in elevated fire weather conditions much of the day.

Look to the Tribune as more information becomes available.

If you have photos of storm-related damage, send them to

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.