Amber Scherf was working on some final wedding reception plans Sunday night as a storm rolled toward her parents’ new home on Bone Lake in Scandia.
At first it seemed like your average summer storm, she said. But then she looked outside and saw the lawn furniture start to twist.
She huddled with her parents in the laundry room as a tornado, one of four to hit Minnesota Sunday, barreled through the neighborhood. When the family went outside to assess the damage to their home — built just four months ago — they found the screened-in porch in shambles and part of the garage door crumpled. A corner of the roof had been ripped off, allowing the high winds to bow a wall.
Scherf’s first thought was about her wedding reception, planned for Saturday on the newly sodded lawn. But the tears didn’t last long — a neighbor quickly offered to host it.
“It’s what people always say in these situations, but we really are fortunate. No one was hurt and it could have been worse,” she said. Not only that, the party was still on.
The National Weather Service confirmed that three other tornadoes, two EF0s and one EF1 (like the one in Scandia), touched down Sunday night in McLeod County, about 60 miles southwest of the metro area. Two more tornadoes left a path of destruction in Wisconsin: One near Luck, where many Twin Cities residents have lake cabins, and another near Barron.
But no injuries were reported, and most places saw little more than tree damage. EF0 and EF1 tornadoes are ranked the weakest on the Enhanced Fujita scale used to measure tornado strength.
The Scherf home was one of a dozen Scandia properties that saw significant damage in Sunday’s storms. City and county officials, neighbors and dozens from tree removal companies were out Monday to move downed trees, rake up leaves and repair street signs that the wind had felled.
Neighborhoods echoed with the whir of chain saws as homeowners cleared streets and driveways of uprooted trees and scattered branches.
Almost as soon as the storm passed Sunday night, tree companies started roaming the hardest hit areas to offer their services. Patti Ray, who owns a lakeside home on Melanie Trail in Scandia, said that at least 10 had knocked on her door by late Monday morning.
Though she said she planned to have friends and family help clean up her yard, Ray will have to hire someone to remove a large cottonwood that was uprooted near her dock and fell onto the firepit she put in this summer. Though the pontoon and Jet Ski survived the storm, Ray’s dock is in pieces. In her 37 years there, she said she’s never seen so much damage.
“It’s really shocking,” she said. “Our summer of enjoying the lake is basically over now because there’s just so much debris in the water.”
In McLeod County, the bulk of the damage was to outbuildings near Silver Lake, though the Biscay area also had many downed trees.
“We’re already seeing homeowners making significant progress on cleanup,” said Kevin Mathews, the county’s director of emergency management.
While many residents were relying on the generosity of friends and neighbors, Mathews warned people to be cautious when cutting trees or working in areas with strewn debris.
He encouraged homeowners to research contractors to ensure they were reputable. A post-storm rush for services can leave openings for scammers, he said.
In Scandia, homeowners may leave tree waste out for the city to pick up, said Mayor Christine Maefsky. Like many residents, she said she was grateful for the tornado sirens and the warning alert on her cellphone.
“There really wasn’t much indication that a tornado was coming,” she said. “There was no green sky. It just came really quickly.”
Scherf, 33, of New York City, echoed that thought. She said that if she not seen the rotating chairs outside or not heard the sirens, she might not have gotten to the laundry room in time.
Standing in the yard where she had planned to host her reception for 110 guests, Scherf appraised the scattered wooden beams and pieces of insulation dotting the siding.
“I’m not going to take a storm lightly ever again,” she said.
For her mother, Laurie, the storm provided affirmation that they had moved to the right neighborhood. In the pouring rain Sunday, her new neighbors rushed over to drag tarps on the roof and sop up the water gushing into the house. More than one offered their own yard for the upcoming reception.
“I didn’t cry until then,” Laurie Scherf said. “Not until I saw people coming over in the rain just to help.”