Toppled trees littered the Nevis area after a severe thunderstorm – and possible tornado – blasted through the area Friday night.
As of Monday, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Forks had not yet confirmed whether there was a tornado or not. Once a determination has been made, the information will be released as a public information statement.
According to the NWS, at 7:25 p.m Friday a trained weather spotter and Becker County Sheriff’s Office deputy reported “a rotating wall cloud in the Smoky Hills State Forest in the vicinity of Osage.” The storm was heading east toward Park Rapids, so a tornado warning was issued for southern Hubbard County.
Around the same time, the NWS said video from spotters indicated “rotation and wall cloud in the Shell Lake area, just north of Snellman. There were no confirmed touchdowns, but reports of funnels.”
At 7:42 p.m., the NWS said the Hubbard County Sheriff reported rotation 1 mile west of Park Rapids.
At 7:53 p.m., a new tornado warning was issued to include Nevis.
Saturday morning, Blair Reuther was cleaning up at the intersection of State Hwy. 34 and County 2, where his Thai 34 Takeout truck is located.
His family and relatives sheltered Friday at his lake home, located in a bay of Belle Taine. “And I’ve got a generator so we can watch movies and eat popcorn,” Reuther said.
He noticed that, even though the storm came from the east, the downed trees are facing east. “I don’t know if a small tornado came through or what, but I’ve got a tree on the (electric) feed wire on one of my lake houses,” he added.
Trees fell throughout the city. Most notably, a century-old willow tree at Shenanigan’s Gifts, Family Fun and Old Time Photos was shredded in half.
“It’s my favorite tree around,” said employee Stephanie Houchin, adding that her daughter planned to get married under the willow in early September. It’s known locally as “the tree of life” or “the sacred tree.”
“I was bawling when I saw that the sacred tree is gone,” Houchin said, noting there was standing water up to her ankles when she went to inspect the damage. “I got a lot of phone calls last night and this morning, and messages on Facebook Messenger,” expressing sympathy.
Joe and Tracy Ganley, who own the property, had a crew coming Saturday afternoon to begin cleanup.
Houchin stayed at her cousin’s house on Belle Taine during the storm. She said they watched a circular wind and hail whip across the lake.
“I heard the wind going whooh-whooh-whooh,” said Debbie Center, who lives on Fifth Crow Wing. She went to her storm shelter when she saw “fingers” streaming from the clouds.
Jenni Stromer lives on Main Street in Nevis. “I had a lot of great friends and neighbors come to help me this morning and most of it is cleared,” she said of the fallen trees in her yard. “I was lucky to have no structural damage. Unfortunately, the neighbors did have some damage to their home, but it could have been a lot worse.”