August 20, 2009 in Nation/World

Strong storms strike in Midwest states

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Chandrajo Ushman, 5, sits inside her father Michael Ushman Jr.’s truck in Loami, Ill., on Wednesday after a possible tornado destroyed her home.
(Full-size photo)

MINNEAPOLIS – Powerful winds slammed parts of four Midwestern states on Wednesday, leaving behind shattered windows, toppled power lines and a handful of injuries. At least a half-dozen suspected tornadoes were reported.

The National Weather Service received reports of a possible tornado near downtown Minneapolis, where winds tore off part of a 90-year-old metal church steeple. Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois were also hit, though the only confirmed tornado as of Wednesday night was in Hastings, about 30 miles southeast of Minneapolis, where a 100-yard-long swath of trees was flattened.

Jack Freitag said he was standing in the lobby of the Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis when he saw “a wall cloud from the south coming across the parking lot.” Then a “very loud roar” came through as he saw signs being blown around in the wind.

The wind tore off part of the church’s 90-year-old metal steeple about 2 p.m. while about 120 people were inside, said church spokesman Joe Bjordal.

“I was worried about the people then,” said Freitag, who told everyone to seek shelter in the church’s basement. No one was injured.

Outside the church, strong winds ripped apart large outdoor tents and scattered chairs and folding tables across the parking lot that were set up for the national Evangelical Lutheran Church in America convention. The church was scheduled to serve breakfast to guests attending the event at the Minneapolis Convention Center next door.

“I think we’re out of business” for entertaining convention visitors, Bjordal said.

Meteorologist Dan Luna said it was the sort of storm that meteorologists dread – it didn’t look dangerous until it was.

“We worry about the really benign thunderstorm that develops a tornado in the metropolitan area,” Luna said. “These short-lived ones form very quickly and dissipate very fast. They are very hard to predict.”

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