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Communities Clean Up After Storms
By Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
June 12, 2001

Residents of central Minnesota spent the day cleaning up and assessing damage from storms that moved across the area Monday night. Several communities suffered significant damage caused by tornados, straight-line winds and hail.

Boats piled up on the shore of Green Lake at Spicer. View a slideshow of images from the Spicer clean-up effort.
TORNADOS FIRST HIT BENSON in west central Minnesota. Several businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. Flying debris injured seven people sheltering in a ditch. A 12-year-old boy, who suffered serious injuries, was flown to a Fargo hospital where doctors upgraded his condition from critical to serious.

After the storm left Benson, it cut a path through west central Minnesota, dropping heavy rain and hail, battering communities with straight line winds of 80 and 90 miles per hour.

Litchfield, Grove City and Spicer were some of the harder hit communities. Crews in Spicer spent the day cleaning up hundreds of downed trees lying snapped and scattered on city streets.

As residents worked, many wondered what exactly swept through town. Some say they saw funnel clouds in the area, and a cloud of swirling debris on Green Lake on the city's West side. But Spicer Fire Chief Bob Lindahl says he doubts a tornado hit Spicer. "It could have been, but the way it looks through town here, the way the trees and stuff are laying, it looks like a straight-line wind that actually came through town here," Lindahl said.

Whatever came through Spicer took out many of the city's trees. About half of the tree's in Spicer's city park are uprooted. In residential neighborhoods the fallen trees smashed windows and broke through roofs.

The storm hit hardest on the south side of Spicer's Green Lake. That's where homeowner Wynn Elliot says he saw the storm push across the lake, whipping up six-foot waves. Elliot headed for cover when the storm came through.

"I went in the bathroom and stayed in there, held out in there until I felt it was safe to come out and and when I came out all the trees were gone, they were all on the house and boats are gone and it was just a mess," Elliot said.

Just down the beach from Elliot's home, about half a dozen boats are smashed together, some upside down in the water, laying among a tangle of docks and boat lifts.

On the west side of the lake, Spicer resident Lionel Sandven came home from work after the storm to find a jungle of downed trees around and on his house.

"We lost mostly trees, we do have some damage where a tree hit the house on the corner over there, and I've got a metal carport that got blown up on the roof; broke the anchor post off and flipped it up there, and got a broken window a couple of broken windows and we were pretty fortunate actually," Sandven said.

The storm took out hundreds of power poles across central Minnesota, leaving Sandven and most Spicer residents without power.

Central Minnesotans hoping for a break from severe weather won't see it soon. Severe storms are in the forecast for Tuesday night, and thunderstorms are expected to pop up through Saturday.