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Early morning thunderstorm roars through area

Mary Simon of Bemidji was in fairly good spirits Friday afternoon but admitted feeling very different several hours earlier when a severe thunderstorm tore through southern Beltrami County.

Clearing branches
Mary Simon clears branches from her property at 1081 Thomas Road Friday morning. A white pine top landed on her trailer, with two branches breaking into her bedroom, which flooded the room with rainwater. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Mary Simon of Bemidji was in fairly good spirits Friday afternoon but admitted feeling very different several hours earlier when a severe thunderstorm tore through southern Beltrami County.

High-speed winds caused the top of a large white pine to break off and crash onto her house located at 1081 Thomas Road S.W., a few miles west of Lake Irving.

"It woke me up at a quarter to two in the morning," she said. "I could feel the wind was blowing from the noise it was making. I heard a "swoosh" and then a loud "boom," and I knew something hit the top of the roof.

Simon left her bedroom and remembered trying to calm down, but then heard water running from inside the house.

"I went back into my bedroom and saw water was pouring in from the ceiling in two spots," Simon said. "I was so nervous."

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She called a friend who came over to the house. When they walked outside, they saw the top of a large tree had crashed onto the roof of her trailer home. Two the tree's longer limbs had punctured the roof and stuck about 2 feet into Simon's bedroom.

In the 15 years she has lived there Simon said she has never felt her home shake as much as it did Friday morning.

"It was more than I've ever felt before," she said. "I could feel it trembling. It had to have been really strong winds."

Simon added all of the older, larger trees on her property had their tops snapped off in the wind.

"One just missed the trailer," she said. "The other one landed on the top of trailer."

Skies were clear, winds were calm and temperatures were in the upper 60s at around 12:15 a.m. Friday in Bemidji. But one hour later conditions quickly changed as sustained winds picked up to 37 miles per hour. With humidity levels at 100 percent, the storm intensified as the clouds lowered.

Bolts of lightning flashed repeatedly as the storm rolled through town, hitting trees and power lines as it moved. Heavy rain caused flash flood conditions on some roads. According to the National Weather Service, a trained storm spotter estimated wind gusts reached 70 miles per hour based on storm damage indicators such as uprooted trees and snapped branches.

Numerous trees, utility poles, and utility lines were down Friday, with most of the damage occurring in the Nymore neighborhood in Bemidji and areas to the east between Power Dam Road and Roosevelt Road.

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City crews were called out to clear debris from roadways. Several unoccupied cars were hit by falling trees. Beltrami Electric and Ottertail Power crews worked to restore power to southern Beltrami County.

As of Friday, no injuries were reported as a result of the storm.

The 600 block of Pershing Avenue Southeast in Nymore was particularly hit hard by the storm damage.

Corrine Locke was at work when she received a call from her fiancé, Brian Edwards, asking if she knew if there were any candles in their house.

"He was calling from home and told me about the storm and that the electricity went out," she said.

But a bigger concern was the tall box elder tree growing in their front yard uprooted during the storm and fell onto a corner of their neighbor's house.

"I'm glad everyone was safe," Locke said.

Locke said she and Edwards would likely be spending much of Saturday cutting the tree into pieces and moving it off their property.

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Bill and Mona Larson, who live down the street from Locke, were busy raking smaller tree limbs from their yard Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Bill used a rope to take down a large tree limb that was teetering above their yard.

"When I heard the storm, I was thinking 'I hope a tree doesn't fall on the house,'" Mona said. "We didn't have it that bad, but next door is really bad. The whole tree came down."

The Larsons also plan to spend a portion of their weekend cleaning up debris left from the storm.

"The yard is a mess, but it could be worse," Bill said.

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