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Red Barn Farm in Northfield was devastated by Thursday’s storm. The owners of the pizza barn and wedding venue were hosting extended family at the time of impact and found safety in a cellar, pictured here. Anne Kopas / Northfield News

At least four tornadoes confirmed in southern Minnesota storm

NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- The National Weather Service on Friday, Sept. 21, confirmed at least four tornadoes hit in southern Minnesota on Thursday.

The tornadoes and strong winds damaged structures, cut power, uprooted trees and disrupted schools. Tornadoes were confirmed near the cities of Granada, Morristown, Faribault and the Lake Elysian/Waterville area.

The weather service said Friday additional tornadoes may have developed. By Friday afternoon, the four confirmed tornadoes had yet to be classified by the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Rice County was hit hard by severe weather on Thursday, with extreme winds and at least one likely tornado reported in the area about 50 miles south of the Twin Cities.

A tornado warning was issued at 6:22 p.m., lasting until 7:30 p.m., with winds reaching up to 60 miles per hour during the storm’s peak, according to the National Weather Service.

“We suspect Faribault had at least one tornado. Just north of Medford, we believe there was also one tornado,” NWS Meteorologist Caleb Grunzke said earlier. “There was also a video of a tornado posted just east of Grenada.”

“It sure looked like a tornado to me [around Northfield],” Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson said. “Whether it was straight line winds or a tornado, it doesn’t really matter, because everything is totaled.”

Nelson, himself, experienced significant damage on his property.

“I lost my barn and half of my grove,” he said. “My neighborhood out east of town is not in good shape.”

Emergency crews were out in full force across the county and beyond.

“Throughout the path of the storm in southern Minnesota, there are large trees down, power lines down, buildings destroyed, houses receiving considerable damage,” Grunzke said.

Serious damage to buildings and planes was found at the Faribault Municipal Airport, a possible touchdown spot of a tornado. Emergency crews had to block off the airport from “gawkers.”

“Don’t be out driving and gawking. It’s not safe. If people don’t need to be out and about, they shouldn’t be,” Nelson said. “Just check on your own properties and your immediate neighbors to make sure everyone is OK.”

Bill Bongers, who lives between Faribault and Northfield, off Hwy. 3, said 15 pine trees were knocked down in his front yard. He was out in his shop when the storm came through.

“I was holding the door closed as it was coming through. I was in the shop when the overhead door blew in,” Bongers said. “I didn’t have time to get to the house. It came through so fast.”

Bongers called it “very, very concerning,” but said he was all right, as were his house and shop. However, he reported his barn, wood shed, machine shed and garden shed were all taken down.

In Morristown, the damage was heavy. The Rice County Sheriff’s Office issued a curfew for the town from 10 p.m. Thursday to 6:30 a.m. Friday, asking people to stay in their homes and only allowing residents into the city.

Lynnae Byers posted a photo of a house badly damaged in Morristown, where the storm reportedly hit hard. Sandy Larson, of Faribault, said “All large trees are gone in our neighborhood.” And Katrina Todd, of Faribault, said “Over by Jefferson is all tore up.”

Mikayla Lautenschlager shared a picture of an overturned semitrailer on Hwy. 3 between Northfield and Faribault. Christine DeCoster Sickler, of Northfield, shared a photo of trampoline that had landed in the middle of the street. Stephanie Howard Mahal reported a street light down at Prairie and Jefferson.

Dozens of people shared photos of damaged and knocked over trees, some with roots torn right from the ground.

Northfield Public Schools and Faribault Public Schools are both canceled Friday.

Philip Weyhe and Michael Hughes of Northfield News contributed to this report. The Northfield News is part of Adams Publishing Group, a partner with Forum News Service

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