10 houses lost in Tuesday tornado in small Mower County town of Taopi

Published 10:31 am Thursday, April 14, 2022

Another 4 were also damaged

A wider picture of the damage leveled on Taopi from Tuesday night’s EF2 tornado is starting to become a little clearer Thursday.

According to Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik, of the 24 buildings in the community of over 60, 10 homes are a complete loss.

“We’re continuing to meet with the residents,” Sandvik said. “The Emergency Management team is meeting with residents, working with the mayor and continuing with a plan for recovery.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, utility crews were still working to reestablish power to Taopi.

“It was roaring,” she said. “The moment we ran through to the basement we heard windows shattering. We were down in the basement for maybe a minute.”

The National Weather Service out of La Crosse, Wisconsin estimates winds from the tornado that struck Taopi peaked at around 130 mph and was on the ground for a little over seven miles.

Two people were injured and had to be rescued from the basement of their damaged home. They were taken to Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Austin Tuesday night for non-life threatening injuries.

Counting Taopi, the NWS’ survey of Tuesday totals five tornadoes in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa. Another two reportedly touched down further south in Iowa.  The four other confirmations in our area include:

  • An EF1 set down near Spring Valley with max winds of 100 mph. It was on the ground for 2.3 miles.
  • An EF1 set down near Brownville, Iowa with max winds of 110 mph. It was on the ground for 2.2 miles.
  • An EF1 set down near Riceville, Iowa, with max winds of 100 mph. It was on the ground for 5.3 miles.
  • An EF0 set down near Saratoga, Iowa, with max winds of 75 mph. It was on the ground for just under a quarter of a mile.

Sandvik said Wednesday afternoon that a majority of the damage in Mower County from Tuesday night was largely confined to Taopi itself.

“There wasn’t significant damage beyond the Taopi area,” he said. “There were still some limbs and trees down, but nothing like there was in Taopi.”

This round of storms comes almost exactly four months to the day that freak storms rolled through southeast Minnesota on Dec. 15, 2021, causing severe damage to the eastern part of the county, knocking out power in Austin and devastating the small community of Hartland, north of Albert Lea.

That system included a rash of tornadoes and wind gusts as high as 85 mph in places and caused over $500,000 in damage to the county. Many places that were damaged are still coping with the consequences.

It’s a sign for how long lasting the recovery could be for Taopi.

“It will take a long time for these families to recover and move back into their homes,” Sandvik said.