BEMIDJI -- Severe storms that produced “monster-sized” hail and high winds on Monday evening left behind a trail of ruin -- from downed trees to home and property damage -- in its wake across much of Beltrami County and beyond.
Beltrami County Emergency Management director Christopher Muller reported that large hail, ranging from golf ball to baseball-sized, was the dominant feature of the storm and was responsible for the majority of the damage around the county.
The storm, which likely had wind speeds of more than 60 mph, hit Redby and Red Lake particularly hard. The towns of Blackduck, Tenstrike and Pennington, along with parts of southeast Beltrami and Cass County also experienced the severe weather, National Weather Service Grand Forks meteorologist Carl Jones said.
“There’s obviously going to be some broken windows, rough damage to residences and structures as well as siding damage on homes due to the large hail,” Muller said.
Georgia Downwind, who lives between Redby and Red Lake, said she’s never before seen a storm like Monday evening’s. Having just gotten home from work, she noted that all had seemed normal outside at first. But within minutes, the sky darkened and the wind began to whip -- and then came the hail.
“We’ve never had anything like this in all my life. We’ve had storms but nothing like this,” she said. “We had hail bigger than golf balls just slamming the house and beating the heck out of everything. It was so loud and scary.”
“I was like what do we do, where do we go?” she added.
Unable to get her 94-year-old mother into her basement, she said their only option was to ride out the storm in the upper part of her split-level home for the 15 to 20 terrifying minutes.
The storms produced at least one tornado report in Red Lake. On Tuesday, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service went to survey the area to confirm or refute the report. The findings will be released in a day or so, Jones said.
“This storm falls into a supercell type of thunderstorm. A supercell being essentially a storm that has rotation within it. The entire storm is rotating, but just because itself is rotating doesn't necessarily mean it's a tornado,” Jones said. “These particular storms have a track record of producing the more damaging type of hazardous weather like hail and wind, and it can produce tornadoes.”
There were also some additional storms that extended farther east into Grand Rapids and the Iron Range extending to Duluth and portions of Wisconsin, Jones noted.
In the Red Lake area, once the storm had subsided, Downwind went outside and discovered a sea of ice in her yard.
“There was so much hail that it was hard to walk -- it was slippery,” she said. “Then it started melting and there was water all over my yard.”
She surveyed the damage and discovered golf ball sized dents all over her car, a shattered windshield and broken mirrors. Her home’s siding and one window were also damaged, along with plants “beaten into the ground.”
“It really beat the heck out of my car and my house,” she said. “The back of my house looks like Edward Scissorhands was back there doing a number on it. My daughter lives just down the road and her house got really beat up. She didn't have any windows left.”
Although she can’t drive anywhere currently, Downwind said she’s heard of other damage -- like a bent-over flagpole by the tribal council building and disturbed powwow grounds -- and trees downed in the area. She said folks are also having to board up house windows until they can be repaired.
As of now, Downwind is waiting to hear back from her insurance company so repairs can begin on her home and car -- although she suspects her car isn’t salvageable. No injuries from the storm have been reported, and Downwind is looking to that as a bright spot amid the damages.
“As long as we’re safe that’s the only thing that counts,” she said. “It will get worked out, but it’s just going to take some time. I trust in that.”