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Likely tornado hits Wadena; Thursday storm interrupts parade, all-school reunion celebration

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WADENA -- It was supposed to be a celebratory day here.

Instead, what's being described as a likely tornado tore large sections of the city apart.

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The storm disrupted the city's parade and roared through town late Thursday afternoon as hundreds of visitors arrived for an all-school reunion.

Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden said the storm ripped through about 5:10 p.m., damaging or destroying several buildings, including Wadena-Deer Creek High School and the Wadena Area Community Center.

Wolden said while there have been no reports of fatalities, there have been reports of 12 to 13 people injured.

Ten area fire departments and about 100 law enforcement officers arrived to help, but Wolden warned volunteers to stay away Thursday evening.

Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr said the damage is severe and downed power lines presented a safety issue. He said it's not safe to enter the city.

The Red Cross was to set up a command post at the Wadena Armory to help people displaced by the storm.

Wolden said there are many gas and water main leaks that crews are trying to repair, and Verizon cell phone service is down in the city.

Wolden said the storm hadn't been officially classified as a tornado, he's certain it was.

Steve Schulz is a reporter at the Wadena Pioneer Journal, which is owned by Forum Communications Co., which also owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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