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Region pounded by severe winds

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Park Rapids Enterprise
Region pounded by severe winds
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

For Hubbard County residents it was déja vu all over again Tuesday.

Residents near Emmaville were startled to hear tornado sirens blaring from Camp Wilderness, the Boy Scout camp on Bad Axe Lake. Sirens started just before 3 a.m. Tuesday and sounded continuously for 30 minutes.

Rural Osage residents in eastern Becker County woke to the sound of a freight train around 2:30 a.m., the tell-tale sound of a possible tornado.

"I was petrified," said Warren Paulson, who was sleeping in his camper trailer near his farmstead northwest of Osage. He woke to find his lawn and deck littered with trees. He, too, heard a roar overhead as the weather system ripped through the trees.

"Somebody took my roof!" Dennis Dodge joked about the pile of rubble that used to be a storage garage. His belongings were strewn all over the Paulson farm.

Residents on Long Lake just outside Park Rapids woke up to downed trees, overturned boats and a mess of branches littering the lakeshore early Tuesday morning.

A Chicago man camping with his daughter in Todd Township suffered a serious leg fracture when a tree toppled onto the tent they were sleeping in.

Andrew Lawrence, 28, Chicago, was transported to St. Joseph's Area Health Services, then on to St. Mary's Regional Health Center in Detroit Lakes where he underwent surgery to repair the fracture.

Hubbard County Chief Deputy Frank Homer said Lawrence's daughter wasn't injured.

The sheriff's department also said a barn in Crow Wing Lake Township was struck by lightning early Tuesday and caught fire. Nevis fire chief Kerry Swenson said the 20-by-50 foot shed and lumber inside were destroyed when lightning struck the building around 2:30 a.m.

"We're encouraging people to call us with their storm damage so we can do an overall assessment," Homer said. Since the Osage damage was just over the Hubbard County line into Becker County, the affected homeowners will have to call that county.

Was this more tornados or downbursts?

If you ask those affected near Osage, they'll swear a tornado came through even though they couldn't see it at that hour of the morning.

"It sounded like a big semi coming right at you," said Joni Sharp, whose shed was destroyed. "And some big piece of tin flew into the yard."

Sharp said she sleeps to the sound of her television and did hear the severe thunderstorm warnings, but only had about five minutes warning before her shed was destroyed.

"It was freaky," she said. "It scared the hell out of my cow. It pinned the dog underneath the trailer."

That "piece of tin" Sharp found was a 10-foot-long section. It belonged to Dodge's garage more than one-half mile away.

Hubbard County Emergency Management Director Dave Konshok said local officials will invite National Weather Service personnel here to survey the damage because often with "lower level tornados" that's the only way they can make a determination as to whether a twister blew through.

"At this point all I can say is that all of this extreme wind damage appears to be along the trajectory as the larger scale downburst wind event we had been warning about throughout the late evening and overnight hours Monday night and Tuesday morning," said Greg Gust , warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

"We were indicating the expectation of damaging winds in excess of 80 mph. Winds of that speed can cause the types of damage you've seen and produce the 'freight train' sound."

Gust said these types of downbursts "often produce damage over a much wider and longer area than a tornado. They are generally less deadly than a tornado but can certainly cause serious trouble when they're dropping trees on tents and campers in the middle of the night."

Much of the damage near Osage was confined to Frazier and Witter roads. Traffic started steaming by the rural area to get a glimpse of downed trees and mess reminiscent of the tornado that struck Pickerel Lake June 6.

Paulson's nephew, LeRoy Paulson, surveyed his damaged wheat crop in dismay where Dodge's garage emptied its contents. They were interspersed with broken strands of wheat all over the field.

"It was a really great crop," he said. "It'll be impossible to harvest." Debris was strewn all over the field, down the road a quarter mile, and way over in Sharp's yard.

Other reports of damage came in from Highway 71 near Utke's Country Pine Furnishings north of Park Rapids. "It missed our house and business by 50 yards," said Nancy Utke. "Pretty scary."

Falling trees near Utke's caused a power outage when they landed on the power lines along the highway.

Ashley Wood, a spokesperson for Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative, said high winds "caused significant power outages in the service area that affected nearly 2,800 people.

By Tuesday afternoon, the buzz of chainsaws was alive on Frazier Road. The Paulsons had just finished fencing off their cattle in a small area near the farmstead before the storms hit.

Normally the cows roam the woods surrounding the farm. The woods have been demolished. The cattle were contentedly grazing late Tuesday. Their only need was water - lots of it.

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