Storms sweep Midwest; tornado in Minnesota

Saturday, June 7th 2008, 8:26 am
By: News 9

EMMAVILLE, Minnesota  -- Strong storms smashed houses, deluged neighborhoods, toppled trees and left thousands without power across the Midwest on Friday in the latest round of fierce weather. No injuries were reported.

A tornado raked a half-mile-wide path of destruction in northwestern Minnesota, where a house overlooking Pickerel Lake near Emmaville was destroyed, it's contents spilling down the hill. Wooden chairs and tables were floating below. Nearby was a concrete slab the size of a two-car garage, but whatever structure once sat on it was blown away.

Flooding forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in the central Iowa town of Cambridge, but areas to the southwest saw some of their roads and buildings re-emerge from subsiding waters in a much-needed respite from severe weather.

Heavy rains that began Thursday night seeped into most basements and at least one foundation collapsed, said Lori Morrissey, Story County's emergency management coordinator.

"The ground is just fully saturated," Morrissey said. "The runoff from the community just all comes to that part of town. This is probably the worst it's ever been."

In Illinois, the Chicago Department of Aviation said high winds and storms were causing delays and cancellations at the city's airports.

Delays at O'Hare International Airport were averaging two hours Friday night, and more than 200 flights were canceled. At Midway Airport, some flights were delayed 20 minutes.

High winds blew the roof off an eastern Illinois lumber yard, sending debris through a nearby auto dealership. Also, 60-mph winds blew trucks off highways near Effingham and Champaign, but authorities said there were no immediate reports of injuries.

In Missouri, the Washington County Sheriff's Department said there were reports of a tornado touching down near Richwoods, about 65 miles southwest of St. Louis. No damage was immediately reported.

Flash flooding forced highways closed in Missouri and Minnesota, where a storm caused widespread damage in Park Rapids and an unincorporated town north of it called Emmaville.

No serious injuries were reported.

"Right now, I can tell you we've been fortunate," Sheriff Gary Mills said.

Susan Vessey said she's lived on the shore of the lake for 40 years and has never seen a storm like Friday's. "It was too fast to be scared," she said. Trees fell on her deck and roof, but there wasn't any damage to the inside of her house.

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels declared 41 counties disaster areas -- the first step to gain federal aid -- after severe storms and tornadoes. One person was killed and at least 10 injured in the round of storms this week.

Daniels wore a hard hat as he toured a tornado-ravaged apartment complex in Indianapolis on Friday.

"No matter how many times I see it, I'm constantly amazed and awed by the human sprit and the spirit of compassion that characterizes our state," Daniels said.

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)