WILLMAR, Minn. — The National Weather Service reported high wind gusts in Willmar and Benson, Minn., early Monday morning, Aug. 24, as a few rounds of thunderstorms moved through the area.
At 2:50 a.m. Monday, an 84-mph wind gust was reported near Benson and about 15 minutes later the Willmar Municipal Airport reported a wind gust of nearly 50 mph. The storms also brought heavy rainfall.
The majority of the damage came in the form of downed tree limbs, though there was some structural damage. Benson Police Chief Ian Hodge said a few sheds lost roofs and one business suffered some damage. Several roads were blocked by downed trees and some homes had power outages due to tree limbs falling on the power lines that served those residences.
"The town is busy" with the cleanup, Hodge said. "I've seen a lot of trailers with tree limbs going through town."
In Willmar, Fire Chief Frank Hanson said a house fire at the 1900 block of Sixth Street Southwest was caused by a lightning strike. The Fire Department was able to get the fire under control within an hour.
The most significant damage in Kandiyohi took place at the old grain elevator right on U.S. Highway 12. The winds caused two of the bins to crumble and fall against the main elevator building. Kandiyohi Mayor Gordy Woltjer said the bins had already been in a precarious state, being held up by the catwalk at the top. The bins were to be taken down Monday morning, to make sure they wouldn't fall further and block the railroad tracks.
The storm hit the Games Lake County Park hard and fast.
Dawn Oslund, of Blomkest, was alone in her camper when strong winds ripped through the area shortly after 3 a.m.
“I woke to hearing the awning tearing off the camper so I got up and I couldn’t get the patio door open right away,” she said. “But when I felt the camper tipping, and coming back down again, I knew I had to get out of here.”
Oslund said she forced the patio door open and grabbed her purse and her dog and headed to the storm shelter. When the storm died down she came back see the damage on her camper.
“It was very scary.”
Katie Finstrom, of Kerkhoven, was in a camper with her husband and six kids, all under the age of 9, when Finstrom said she got an alert on her phone warning of the storm. They quickly secured their camper and that of another relative.
Because it was too late to run to the storm shelter the crew hunkered in the middle of the camper with she and her husband ready to lay down on top of the children to protect them.
“It was rocking our camper really hard,” she said. “It wasn’t a long time but it felt long. But in retrospect it wasn’t too long.”