Two tornado warnings were issued for the Park Rapids area on Sunday.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Forks issued the first warning at 3:34 p.m., ending at 4:15 p.m., for southwestern Hubbard, northeastern Becker and southeastern Clearwater counties.
According to a text sent out by the Hubbard County Emergency Notification System (HCENS), a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado and ping pong ball-size hail was spotted at 3:34 p.m. over Many Point Lake, 23 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes, moving east at 20 mph. Radar indicated rotation. The storm was expected to track through Pine Point, Bad Medicine Lake, Ponsford and Two Inlets between 3:50 and 4:15 p.m. It also threatened Many Point Scout Camp.
The second warning was announced at 4:16 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m. for southwestern Hubbard and northeastern Becker counties.
The HCENS reported that at 4:15 p.m., a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado and quarter-size hail was spotted over Two Inlets, moving east at 20 mph. Again, radar indicated rotation. The storm was expected to pass near Park Rapids, Emmaville, Dorset, Camp Wilderness and Nevis between 4:45 and 5 p.m.
On Monday morning, Jennifer Ritterling with the NWS in Grand Forks said, “As far as I know, we haven’t received confirmation of any touchdowns or damage, but we’ve just started the process of digging for information about what happened.”
Leslie Hansen and Amy Miller saw storm damage on their farm near Two Inlets.
“Originally, we thought it was just straight-line winds, but now we’re not sure,” said Hansen. “It was coming out of the west, and then it switched directly out of the south. Dime-sized hail covered my backyard in about five minutes, and then I lost the shingles flying over the house.”
Lending credence to his suspicion that a tornado may have passed over, Hansen said, his neighbors on either side took no damage to their property.
“It took somewhere around 20 trees behind my pasture, in the backwoods,” he said. “There’s about 20 laying down, one in the backyard. It tore all the shingles off about four feet up on my roof, all the way across the south side of my house. The skylights on both barns, it ripped two of those off.”
Hansen added that the wall of the lean-to where his goats and horses live bulged out about five inches from the top. Also, he noted that most of the downed trees are lying north to south, “except on the outer edges, they’re laying more northeast to southwest.”
If it was a twister, he said, “I don’t think it ever touched down. I think it just came right across the top of the house and then moved up again, because my back 40 – there was very minimal damage back there. It all happened right at the house and the backyard.”
Later on Monday, Ritterling said the NWS “did receive a few reports of funnels, and some tree damage was reported east-southeast of Park Rapids, but no touchdowns were reported.”
Funnels, rotation sighted
“We had reports of funnel clouds and some rotation up in the clouds, but nothing that ever came down to the ground,” Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Halbasch, Hubbard County’s emergency manager, said Tuesday. He added that the rotation reports came from Park Rapids, Lake Belle Taine and Laporte.
“Laporte was the cell that the weather service was really concerned about,” he said. “That was when the first warning came out. I contacted them and told them that that’s where we had a lot of rotation,” in the area of Highways 63 and 94.
During the storm, Halbasch said, “we advised the first responders and the fire departments of the county to monitor the weather and report back to us if they see any rotation, wherever they were at, and we didn’t get any additional reports after that. Thankfully, it was a kind of uneventful first tornado warning of the season.”
Responding to comments on the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page reporting funnel clouds over the hospital in Park Rapids, he said that by the time law enforcement went to confirm it, any funnel had dissipated.
“I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” said Halbasch. “We just didn’t have eyes on it ourselves.”
He said no major damage was reported.
“Every thunderstorm, we always get trees or branches that fall down. We didn’t have anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “We got some pea-sized hail in different locations around the county, but no reports of damage to any trees or roads, or even private property.”
Halbasch said that while patrolling areas Monday where rotation was reported, he didn’t see any particular damage. “We kind of skirted by on this one, I guess,” he said.