WATERTOWN, Minnesota — A tornado touched down near Watertown west of the Twin Cities overnight, damaging buildings and flipping cars but causing no injuries, the National Weather Service said Saturday, as utility crews worked to restore electricity to more than 200,000 customers who had lost power.
Meteorologists said after surveying the damage by daylight that the EF1 tornado packed peak winds estimated at 105 mph as it left a path of damage 4.3 miles long and up to 500 yards wide through Hollywood Township. A home weather station recorded a 99 mph wind before it blew off the house.
An EF1 tornado is considered weak on the enhanced Fujita scale, which runs from EF0 to EF5, but it still caused serious damage.
One Hollywood Township resident, Adam Falk, told KARE-TV he was sleeping in the basement when the storm hit and he was awakened by debris falling on him. He said all of the top-floor windows were destroyed and the doors were blown off their hinges.
"The barn is toast. ... The whole first 4 feet of the roof sheeting on the house is gone, so water got all the way down to the basement. Heavy water damage," Falk told the station. He said he wasn't sure if the home was salvageable.
Falk said his parents raise chickens and his sister has a couple horses on the hobby farm, but those animals seemed fine.
"The cat seemed rattled," he added.
Xcel Energy said around 240,000 customers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin lost power during the overnight storms. Around 50,000 customers were still without power by Saturday evening, mostly in the Twin Cities metro area. It said all available crews were in the field Saturday, comprising around 650 people from Xcel, its contractors and partners who were working 16-hour shifts. The company said it expects to reduce the outages to 40,000 customers by late Saturday, and restore service to 95 percent of them by the end of the day Sunday — but some of the hardest-hit areas won't get power back until Monday.
"This severe storm took down trees, power lines, there are broken poles — it's a real snarled mess out there — so working through all of that is, of course, challenging," Xcel Regional Vice President Laura McCarten said.
The storms brought down large trees across the Twin Cities area. Wind gusts of up to 70 miles an hour were reported in St. Paul, Golden Valley, New Brighton, Maple Grove, Richfield and Lakeville.