Residents Emerge from Record-Early Tornadoes, Assess Damage

March 06, 2018 04:16 PM

Tornadoes touching down near Zimmerman and Clarks Grove Monday evening were the earliest such events in a calendar-year in Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.

And though no injuries have been reported, residents in those areas -- more than 125 miles apart -- are left cleaning up damage to homes and property. 


Significant thunder- and wind storms hit areas from central to east-central to southern and southeastern parts of the state, as well as western Wisconsin Monday. 

The northernmost tornado whipped through dozens of homes near Orrock Township, north of Lake Ann in Sherburne County.

Lori and Tony Molitor have lived in that area for five years. They said they were standing outside Monday night watching the storm roll in.

"All we could see was a wall of rain coming at us," Lori Molitor said.

The pair decided to run to their basement to take cover.

"As I'm shutting the door, the wind came in and i had to fight to get the door back shut," Lori Molitor said.

RELATED: NWS Confirms Record-Early Tornadoes Near Zimmerman, Clarks Grove

After several minutes of hearing "loud whistling" through their house, the Molitor's emerged to find trees uprooted all over their property and their driveway blocked by branches.

Tuesday afternoon, several large trees were still laying on top of the house. They estimate the storm took out at least 40 trees on their property.

"My stomach's been kind of flip-flopping all day, worrying," Tony Molitor said.

RELATED: Dozens of Homes Damaged by Strong Winds in Clarks Grove

Luckily, their house is still livable. The power company restored service around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Some of their neighbors are not so lucky. A woman who lives to their west had to move out temporarily after the storm ripped the roof away. It touched almost everything on the property except for a swing set in the back yard.

RELATED: Witnesses say Tornado Touches Down Near Zimmerman, Would Mark State Record

The previous record for earliest tornado in a calendar year in Minnesota was set on March 18, 1968.

The National Weather Service rated the Zimmerman tornado an EF-1, and said its estimated peak winds were 107 mph. The tornado was on the ground for 10 minutes over 8.9 miles and covering a width of 300 yards.

An F-1 rating generally means a tornado carries wind speeds of between 73 mph and 112 mph and has the potential to damage roofs and siding, send vehicles off roadways or potentially release mobile homes from moorings. 

The weather service is now say the Clarks Grove tornado touched down one minute earlier than the Zimmerman tornado, making it the official record-holder. 

A survey team in Clarks Grove Tuesday determined the heavy damage there was indeed caused by a tornado. Clarks Grove is in Sherburne County, more than an hour south of the Twin Cities, near Albert Lea. 

That tornado also was rated EF-1, sweeping across 12.5 miles of land, also lasting 13 minutes and also with a max width of 300 yards. It's highest sustained winds were reported as between 100 and 110 mph.


Kirsten Swanson

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