Faribault Suffers Extensive Damage in Storm
Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen and Fire Chief and City Emergency Management Director Dustin Dienst report responding to multiple reports of downed power lines, trees of all sizes, small electrical fires, and damaged structures following a tornado warning issued at 6:30 Thursday night. The storm hit the city at approximately 6:40 p.m.
The Faribault Municipal Airport received significant damage to multiple hangers. I attempted to go there but was unable to make the trip due to the number of vehicles on the road. It was described to me by people who did drive by on their way to Thursday night's Falcon high school volleyball match as, "The worst damage I've ever seen." This couple also stated, "There were pieces of metal and fencing strewn about the highway as well as the airport campus."
The Faribault Fire Department and Xcel Energy were able to shut off leaking gas mains. Chief Bohlen says, "The Faribault Police Department was able to establish a perimeter and secure the airport. The city is restricting access to the airport due to partially collapsed structures and for the protection of public and private property. The police department is tentatively planning to allow property owners and leasees access via foot at 8:00 a.m. with fire department escort to assess. Property owners and leasees may remove property by vehicle after 10:00 a.m. when the airport is slated to open."
Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director for the City of Faribault Dustin Dienst stated, "We are happy there were no injuries. Our responders did great work despite the difficult weather conditions. We appreciate the public's cooperation and ask for their patience during recovery."
Police Chief Bohlen added, "All city staff and leadership is working diligently to facilitate recovery operations. More information will be released on Friday."
The city of Waterville suffered extensive damage as well as Morristown where a home in the downtown area lost it's roof. It was reported there was significant damage to a mobile home court in Morristown.
Interstate 35 just north of Faribault was closed for a period due to a semi blowing over in the storm.
A National Weather Service damage assessment team will be in the area Friday to survey the damage and determine if a tornado or straight line winds caused the destruction.
I was getting ready to broadcast a volleyball match between Faribault High School and Red Wing at Nomeland Gym when everyone was instructed to go to the basement of the school. A swim meet between Faribault and Owatonna was also being held and everyone was cleared out of the pool area.
There wasn't enough room in the basement for everyone so some of us went into a hallway just above the basement area. Some people became very emotional during this time. I saw a few people crying and others texting on their cell phones to find out if loved ones elsewhere were okay.
Faribault Athletic Director Keith Badger, the Site Supervisor Bob Fielitz and others who directed people to safe areas of the school should be commended for their swift action. When I left the high school to look at damage around town the parking lot was completely full and what was amazing to me was no damage to any vehicles that I could see but just a block and a half to the south extensive tree damage.
I drove down 9th Avenue Southwest with numerous limbs in the street and some trees down on properties. Garbage cans toppled over. Headed over to the Bahl Soccer Complex and saw no trees or limbs down along that area or the Faribault Middle School. Down Willow Street there were two very large trees down in the road and authorities were directing traffic around the massive trees. Eventually the area had to be blocked off while a Bobcat and other equipment was brought in to clear the roadway.
As I drove down 7th Street Northwest I noticed political signs still in yards but some tree limbs down. I live on this street and only small tree limbs blew into my yard.
I headed to the Batchelder area of town to see how Jerry Groskreutz's neighborhood was doing because there are extensive trees behind his place. Getting there was interesting because there were numerous trees down in some of the surrounding neighborhoods but I saw no damage, at least to the front of the Groskreutz home.
Just around the corner though two massive pine trees were toppled over that had to be well over 100 years old. The homeowner was outside with a flashlight and gave me a tour of his backyard with trees down everywhere. It's amazing to note his deck had a simple awning style roof and there was no damage to the structure. No blown out windows or anything.
In the area of Hardees Restaurant virtually every tree was uprooted. Of course this is not too far from the airport which appeared to receive a direct hit from the storm.
I went into North Alexander Park and saw a lot of tree damage. Many mature trees again uprooted. They were toppled in different directions which would indicate to me this was not the work of straight line winds but I am no expert in such matters.
I drove through the Fairgrounds and didn't see any damage to structures. I have to confess I was kind of hoping the roof would be gone from the old bathrooms so they could be replaced but at night anyway it didn't appear there was any damage there.
While I was in the park city workers placed barricades at each end of the park so people couldn't get in.
If you would share some of your damage assessments with us we'll help relay the word to community members.
I snapped scores of pictures of trees down but because it was dark and electricity was out in many of these neighborhoods they didn't turn out very well. I'll share just a couple of those and one of the hallway where we rode the storm out at Faribault High School.