Storms hit rural Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan


LITCHFIELD, Minn. (AP) — Storms spawned tornadoes, torrential rain and powerful winds that prompted evacuations, damaged homes, deposited a snowplow in a tree and flooded roads in parts of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency Tuesday in eight northern Wisconsin counties after heavy rains caused flooding, power outages and damage to roads and bridges. There was at least one fatality reported in the state.

In Litchfield, Minnesota, about 70 miles west of Minneapolis, authorities said a tornado damaged up to 20 homes in the area. Mayor Keith Johnson no one was injured.

Audrey Schoenberg took shelter at a restaurant after a tornado Monday flipped her home off its foundation.

“I’m numb. I’m numb. I don’t know really what I do feel right now. It’s quite a shock to see that everything is gone,” she said.

Diane Kelbing told KARE-TV that she and her husband raced to their mobile home park shelter when they heard the tornado warning siren.

“Well, the garage is gone, the shed is gone, the snowmobile trailer is gone. We’ve got a snowplow in the tree,” Kelbing said.

Fifty residents were removed from the Hilltop Health Care Center in nearby Watkins after the home lost part of its roof. The American Red Cross said it is assisting the evacuees.

Law enforcement also reported a tornado touchdown around 6:30 p.m. Monday, 3 miles east of Rockville, in Stearns County, Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.

The storms also washed out sections of highways in northern Wisconsin and closed other roads. Flooding in the Town of Saxon forced authorities to block off roads for repairs, and officials helped rescue people stranded in the Saxon Harbor area, where 85 boats were also damaged or destroyed, the Iron County Sheriff’s Department said. Nearly 10 inches of rain was reported in the area.

The sheriff’s department said Mitchell R. Koski, 56, of Montreal, Wisconsin, had died in the flooding, but didn’t specify how the man died or where he was found. Sheriff Tony Furyk and Coroner Diane Simonich didn’t immediately return voicemail and email messages.

Thirty-two people were safely evacuated after being briefly trapped on Michigan Island in Lake Superior, Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesman Tod Pritchard said Tuesday night. Many of those were local residents who were camping in the area, he said.

Walker’s emergency declaration included the counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn. The governor said he is instructing the Wisconsin National Guard and all state agencies to help those affected by the storms.

The National Weather Service said more flooding was likely in northern Wisconsin, where rivers and creeks will continue to rise over the next two days. Areas around Danbury to Minong, Hayward, Ashland and Hurley are expected to experience the most significant flooding.

The storms also generated a deluge of heavy rain in Minnesota. In St. Cloud, some motorists were stranded in high water. The National Weather Service reported 11 inches of rain fell in the east-central Minnesota city of Sturgeon Lake.

In Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula, authorities say a tornado struck during an overnight storm that downed trees and caused power outages and flooding.

The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday a low-end EF1 tornado struck three miles south of the Gogebic County community of Bessemer. Winds were estimated around 90 mph.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the storm dumped nearly a foot of rain on the county and washed out access to a boat launch. Some area homes were being evacuated Tuesday afternoon.

Officials have activated the Michigan Emergency Operations Center and provided assistance on the ground and in the air and water.

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This story corrects number of people on Michigan Island trapped to 32, according to a Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesman.

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