At least one tornado is believed to have touched down in Sherburne County on Monday evening. If officially confirmed, it would be the earliest touchdown ever recorded in Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.
The twister hit near Zimmerman, south of Princeton, just before 6 p.m.
The Weather Service in Chanhassen said a tornado “very likely” hit the area, but will not confirm until they assess damage in the vicinity on Tuesday.
Meteorologist Todd Krause said there were reports of trees and power lines down and part of a roof was “taken off a building.”
“It mostly likely was [a tornado], but we want to be certain by taking a look at the damage,” Krause said. “We don’t know for sure with a 100 percent certainty.”
Meteorologist Paul Douglas concurred, saying, “I’m 80 percent sure it was a tornado.”
“A storm spotter report at 6:40 p.m. mentioned ‘housing pieces wrapped around trees,’ ” Douglas said in an e-mail. “Straight-line winds usually don’t do that.”
March tornadoes are rare. Just 19 have been reported in the state since 1950. The previous earliest tornado recorded was March 18, 1968, near Truman, the service said.
The most recent March tornado was in 2012, near Elysian, Minn.
Along with high winds, storms also brought hail. In central and southern Minnesota, there were sightings of hail an inch and more in diameter.
Building damage, uprooted trees, a demolished garage, and a collapsed grain elevator were reported in Clarks Grove in Freeborn County, according to the weather service.
In Sherburne, trees with a diameter of up to 20 inches, including large oak trees, were down.
Temperatures in much of the state soared into the low 60s Monday.
The metro area can expect storms with winds of 20 miles per hour and gusts up to 35 mph Tuesday.
Blasts over 50 mph are possible, especially in western Minnesota, the Weather Service said.
A wind advisory for gusts in excess of 45 mph went into effect Monday evening until 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“Travel, in general, may be hampered at times,” the Weather Service said in its advisory.
“Minor property damage is possible, along with downed tree branches.”
Power outages may occur, the Weather Service added.
Travel is expected to be most difficult on north-south routes, and drivers should use extra caution.
After a brief lull, winds will pick up again Tuesday when a “hazardous high wind” event is expected.
A high wind watch, which means sustained winds of at least 40 mph or gusts of 58 mph or stronger, will go into effect Tuesday.
Behind the system, temperatures are expected to tumble into the upper 40s by Tuesday and into the 30s for Wednesday and Thursday, more typical for early March.
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.