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Severe storms bring tornadoes, funnel clouds, hail
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Como Park in St. Paul was hard hit by the storms. Numerous trees were knocked down by the high winds, which reached 70 mph in some places. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

St. Paul, Minn. — Xcel Energy says all of its metro area crews are out Monday trying to restore power to several thousand customers. Some areas of the Twin Cities reported winds of more than 70 mph Sunday evening as a strong line of storms moved through much of the state.

The high winds knocked down power lines and trees. Some windows were blown out of a building in downtown St. Paul. Three St. Paul elementary schools have cancelled classes Monday because of power outages.

Ed Legge, a spokesman for Xcel Energy, says St. Paul's Como Park area was among the areas hardest hit by the storms.

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Image Midway area

"They seemed to have a real intense burst of severe weather there, and took a lot of big trees down," Legge says. "So we have a lot of our tree-trimmers out, in addition to our regular construction crews and repair crews."

Legge says Xcel Energy hopes to restore power to all if its customers by noon Tuesday.

The storm system spawned tornadoes, funnel clouds and hail as it swept from west-central Minnesota through the Twin Cities area on Sunday.

Tornadoes and funnel clouds were reported near Pennock and Eagle Lake in Kandiyohi County, near Litchfield in Meeker County, near Kimball in Stearns County, near Elk River in Sherburne County, near New Germany in Carver County, and near Greenfield and Maple Grove in Hennepin County.

Separate sets of severe thunderstorms rumbled across southern and northeastern Minnesota later Sunday. A tornado also touched down near Lismore in Nobles County of southwestern Minnesota.

A tornado smashed the garage at the home of Jeff Johnson in largely rural Greenfield, scattering debris across his large back yard. He told KMSP-TV he was out on his deck celebrating Mother's Day with his wife, five daughters and mother-in-law when they felt the rain and wind starting to pick up.

"I was trying to get to the door to shut one of the doors. The door blew open, knocked me down, actually blew it off the hinges and knocked everybody else down," Johnson told the station.

Before they could get to the basement, the storm had passed, he said. Fortunately, they all escaped injury.

A turkey barn sustained some damage outside of Pennock, some trees were damaged in the Willmar area, and large trees were damaged or uprooted in parts of the Twin Cities, particularly the Como Park neighborhood of St. Paul.

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Image Broken windows

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

Officials in Kandiyohi County reported straight-line winds reaching 74 mph.

The storms also generated hail as large as 1 and three-quarters inches near Chokio, while 1-inch hail was reported in the Paynesville and Winnebago areas and parts of Swift County. The skies turned dark as night as the storm hit downtown Minneapolis.

The storm also disrupted operations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Scores of Northwest Airlines departures were delayed until the storm passed, 16 inbound flights were diverted to other airports in the region, and Northwest imposed a one-hour ground stop at other airports for flights leaving for the Twin Cities, spokesman Thomas Becher said.

Nickel-sized hail and winds of 72 mph were reported in St. Paul before the storm moved east into Wisconsin.

The winds knocked a neighbor's tall, old pine tree down into the yard of Geri Carlson of St. Paul.

"Now it's my new lawn ornament," Carlson said. "It's kind of scary. It's leaning on my front porch. I'm afraid my front porch might give out any minute now."

The top broke off of the tree broke off when it clipped another neighbor's house, leaving "a big Christmas tree" in their yard, she said.

"The squirrels are a little confused too, I might add," Carlson said. "They're wondering, 'What the heck is going on?"'

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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