Kandiyohi County residents clean up after high winds and rain tear through their community

Storms rip through central Minnesota

Storms rip through central Minnesota

The roar of chainsaws and fallen trees everywhere.

Part of a post-storm landscape that residents in New London, Minnesota, just north of Willmar, are dealing with.

“They’re either destroyed or like this, half-destroyed,” declares Jerry Hibler, pointing to numerous fallen trees in his daughter’s backyard. “It sounded like you were in a wind tunnel, and there was a train coming through the wind tunnel.”

Residents here say the overnight storm was a double whammy.

First, there were high winds that slammed into the area around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service clocked those winds at 75 to 85 miles per hour.

Then around 2 a.m. the next morning, torrential rains began adding to the misery and destruction.

“It was a very powerful wind, because I mean this neighborhood was mature trees everywhere and they’re all gone,” says Jettie Ditmarson, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. “I lost three pine trees, a willow tree. We have trees in the river behind us that we have to clean up. Our neighbors lost a big tree that’s in our yard — so pretty devastating.”

The hardest hit was the First Avenue southwest neighborhood.

The high winds tore roofs off several buildings, knocked down hundreds of trees and ripped down numerous powerlines.

Hibler, visiting his daughter from Washington State, says falling timber crushed a neighbor’s shed, buried a trampoline and punched a hole through her roof.

“Within seconds (the storm) was here, and the trees in the back, the first one that fell, it was being whipped around like it was nothing,” he recalls. “There was an inch of water in the living room, and it was seeping into the basement, all over the basement, all over the living room, and the ceiling was starting to fall.”

The violent weather scattered roof tiles across one side yard, and shredded fences.

A heavy wooden playhouse was tipped on its side along one roadway.  

“I live in Spicer, and the rain was going sideways,” notes Kandiyohi County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Felt. “We’ve had people where every single tree on their property has been knocked over.”

Felt says the biggest concerns were clearing blocked roadways and making repairs on utility poles and wiring to resolve widespread power outages.

She says many tree-lined streets are dramatically changed.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve lost so many trees in our community, but human life is the priority so we’re just focusing on everybody coming out of this okay,” Felt explains.

By late Wednesday, cleanup crews had cleared most of the area’s roads and were busily stacking huge piles of chopped-up trees and other debris.

Most here agree it was a kind of miracle that, despite all the destruction, no one was hurt.

Still, there’s a big job ahead — and Hibler says he’s not looking forward to showing his daughter all the damage.

“She’s in Miami, and my son-in-law’s in Alaska,” he says. “So, this is what they are going to see when they come home.”