Thursday, October 18, 2018

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Storm damages school, fells trees in west-central Wisconsin

More severe damage, tornadoes seen in southern Minnesota

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    Lenny Pope of A Cut Above Tree Service removes a tree from a home Friday on Swallowtail Court in Altoona after it punctured an 8-by-8-foot hole in the roof. Severe thunderstorms Thursday night caused damage in west-central Wisconsin. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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    The high school and middle school building in Spring Valley sustained roof and other external damage during Thursday night’s storms. Middle school and high school classes were canceled Friday.

    Contributed photo

Severe thunderstorms rolling through west-central Wisconsin Thursday night damaged one area school and felled numerous trees.

The storm damaged Spring Valley’s middle and high school building at 7:45 p.m.

According to a message posted late Thursday on Spring Valley school district’s Facebook page by high school-middle school principal Gretchen Cipriano, numerous school and community events — including a varsity volleyball match between Spring Valley and Colfax — were taking place in the building when the storm hit.

People at the school were sent to the building’s designated storm shelter areas.

No injuries were reported, but there was significant damage to the exterior of the building. Parts of the school’s roof were damaged, and debris was strewn about the school grounds, Cipriano said.

The volleyball match was postponed.

Because of the damage, classes at the high school and middle school were canceled on Friday.

“The property is off limits to everyone other than employees and designated contractors while we assess the damage and begin cleanup and repairs,” Cipriano said.

Classes at the elementary school in Spring Valley were held on Friday.

Spring Valley’s varsity football game at Boyceville was scheduled to be played Friday night. 

Eau Claire County Highway Department crews were busy removing trees Thursday night that blocked various roads.

Several trees were reported down on portions of U.S. 53 south of Eau Claire in the town of Washington.

Downed trees were also blocking traffic on Bauer Avenue at Sindelar Drive and Evergreen Terrace in the town of Washington, and on Markgraff Road near Fall Creek.

In Altoona, a tree fell on and damaged a roof at a residence on Swallowtail Court. According to Xcel Energy officials, around 3,000 residents in the Altoona-Eau Claire area were without electricity at the height of the storm.  

Power went out at Altoona High School during a varsity volleyball match between the Railroaders and Chippewa Falls McDonell. Spectators were moved to hallways in the lower level of the school until the storm passed. The remainder of the match was slated to be completed Friday.  

The National Weather Service, which issued severe thunderstorm warnings for several area counties Thursday night as well as tornado warnings for parts of Pierce, St. Croix and Dunn counties, reported that 0.6 inches of rain fell Thursday at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport. That puts the September total so far at 4.76 inches, or nearly double the month-to-date average of 2.5 inches. 

Minnesota damage

The storm rolled into the region from southeastern Minnesota, where heavy rains poured down, floodwaters rose, and strong winds and possible tornadoes left a trail of damage across the Twin Cities and a large swath of southern Minnesota on Thursday night.

Several homes and businesses were damaged by ferocious winds in Cannon Falls, where downed trees and power lines blocked streets and school was canceled Friday. School was also called off in Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, Faribault and Northfield due to heavy storm damage in those communities.

As many as six tornadoes were reported across southern Minnesota — near Granada, Elysian, Medford, Northfield, Faribault and just south of Randolph. Twisters or strong winds destroyed the Red Barn Farm in Northfield and caused significant damage at the Stanton Airport four miles south of Randolph in Goodhue County, according to Weather Service storm reports.

The airport in Faribault sustained heavy damage, with hangars leveled and planes flipped. The airport remained closed Friday morning. Police also reported many downed trees and power lines, structure damage and small electrical fires.

“The damage is substantial, and city crews are doing their best to open streets, remove debris and keep everyone safe,” city officials said.

The Weather Service said it was sending out several survey teams to determine the location and strength of the reported tornadoes. In parts of southeastern Minnesota, up to 4 inches of rain fell in a short period, according to the Weather Service. It also said it could take “several days” to verify rain totals and storm reports.

Minneapolis-St. Paul recorded a daily record rainfall of 3.28 inches on Thursday, beating the old mark of 1.82 inches from 1902, the Weather Service said.

Copious rains pushed the Minnesota River out of its banks near Henderson, prompting the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Friday morning to close Highway 93 between the city and Highway 169.

Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

Contact: 715-833-9297, dan.holtz@ecpc.com


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