At Least Two Dead in Minnesota Tornadoes

WADENA, Minn. (AP) - Tornadoes ripped across Minnesota on
Thursday evening, killing at least two people and injuring dozens
more as homes were flattened, trees toppled and a gas station
destroyed.

Some of the hardest-hit areas were in the northwest part of the
state, where both deaths were reported.

Otter Tail County Emergency spokesman David Hauser said an
elderly woman was killed when a tornado wiped out her home in
Almora, a small town of about 20 people. At least three people were
injured, he said.

Debris including shingles and pieces of buildings littered the
town. Several large trees were uprooted.

In Mentor, a man was killed when a twister destroyed the Cenex
gas station, the Polk County sheriff's office said. Three other
people were hurt.

Heavy damage also was reported in Wadena, a town of about 4,300
northeast of Almora, where a tornado was confirmed about 5 p.m.,
said National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Gust.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said sirens gave plenty of warning in Wadena,
where many people were in town for an all-school reunion.

Twenty people were treated for injuries at the local hospital,
mostly for bumps and bruises.

Crews worked into the evening to control dozens of gas leaks.
Wadena's community pool was destroyed, the high school "extremely
busted up" and the community center beyond repair, Wolden said.

His wife, Lori Wolden, said houses were "half-gone" and
"there's no trees" in the southwest part of the town.

Jay Hotakainen, 38, huddled in his basement with his son, Lee,
12, and daughter Emma, 6. He said the walls shook and everything in
the house rattled.

"They say it sounds like a freight train. It does," he said.

In Almora, Mabel Wangerin said she heard her bedroom windows
rattle as the storm came through, then watched her quilt fly off
the bed and out the window.

"I was over by the window and prayed and prayed," Wangerin
said.

The violent weather was widespread. The National Weather Service
reported other tornado touchdowns in several cities across the
state.

Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh headed for the basement as the
tornado warnings sounded. He told KSTP-TV he was not immediately
aware of any damage within the city. But he said he could tell from
scanner traffic that some homes and farm sites outside of town had
been destroyed.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the state's emergency management director,
Kris Eide, planned to visit the Wadena and Albert Lea areas Friday
to meet with local officials and survey the damage.

"Our emergency management officials have been working closely
with local officials and we stand ready to assist in every way
needed," the governor said in a statement. "Tomorrow we will
visit the areas hit hardest by these tornadoes to ensure that the
response is swift and comprehensive."


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