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Lisbon tornado. Forum photo

Lisbon cleans up after severe thunderstorm forces evacuation of nursing home, damages property

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
(218) 732-8757 customer support
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

LISBON, N.D. - When residents of a nursing home here had a tornado drill just days ago, little did they know they'd be putting what they learned into action so quickly.

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Forty-nine residents of Parkside Lutheran Nursing Home evacuated the facility after 4 a.m. Wednesday in the midst of a severe thunderstorm that knocked down trees and power poles all around town.

As staff members were moving residents into the hallways as a precaution, they discovered one of the home's propane tanks had caught fire after a tree fell on it, said administrator Tim Kennedy.

The tank was connected to two tanks that were just filled this week and contained about 2,400 gallons of propane, he said.

"It could have been a real crisis had that tank blown up," Kennedy said.

Kennedy credits local firefighters and his staff for their quick response.

Within about 15 minutes of discovering the fire, staff assisted residents, about 75 percent of them in wheelchairs, to nearby Trinity Lutheran Church.

"That's why we do them (drills)," Kennedy said. "When faced with a crisis, we deal with it."

Residents of Prospect Manor, a senior-living facility, and another apartment building also were evacuated, said Lisbon Police Chief Jeanette Persons.

Getting across the street in the pouring rain was difficult, but people were there to help, said Shirley Wiepking, 79, a resident of Prospect Manor.

"We were wet and we were miserable," Wiepking said. "But everybody was safe and sound, that's the main thing."

After the fire was extinguished, the propane tanks were removed from city limits and a temporary tank was installed, Persons said.

Residents of the nursing home stayed at the church for more than six hours while staff waited for power to be restored. The home has a generator, but it was powered by the propane tank, Kennedy said.

The National Weather Service was still surveying storm damage Wednesday from the strong winds to determine details of the storm.

Chief Persons said no injuries were reported.

Residents of the Ransom County town of more than 2,000 worked all day to remove trees from their homes and streets.

"The streets are obstacle courses," Persons said.

Power lines were down around town, and Otter Tail Power Co. crews were busy restoring power to residents.

Many residents waited out the storm in their basements and described it as sounding similar to a tornado.

"It sounded like a freight train coming through my house," Persons said. "It was absolutely terrifying."

Ty Kirby left his home about 3:45 a.m. to head to Edgeley, where he had to work at 5:30 a.m.

But before he could get out of town, the storm grew worse and the winds lifted his pickup and turned it 45 degrees. It was pouring so hard he couldn't see the front of his pickup.

"It just cut loose," Kirby said of the storm.

Kirby called home to his wife, Kristen, and told her to take their three children and get into the basement.

He returned home about 3:55 a.m. to find his neighbor's large evergreen tree in his driveway where his pickup had been.

"Somebody was looking out for us," said Kristen Kirby.

Other than the tree in the driveway, the house had minimal damage.

"It could have been a lot worse," Ty Kirby said.

The North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon regained power about 1:30 p.m. The facility had been operating on two generators.

Bob Nelson, maintenance supervisor, said the storm knocked down at least 30 trees, but it didn't damage the facility or the new construction.

Kevin and Kathy Bleecker were already meeting with their insurance adjustor Wednesday after the storm removed part of their roof.

The family didn't realize the roof had a hole in it until they went outside and said, "Holy crap, that's our roof over there," Kathy Bleecker recalled.

They were discovering water damage throughout the house from the rain that came through the roof.

Some patio furniture from the backyard ended up in the front yard.

Down the street at the fairgrounds, a ticket booth was tossed on its side into a chain-link fence.

"It surprises me it was just wind," Bleecker said.

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