As Minnesotans cleaned up after two days a severe weather Friday, authorities in Kandiyohi County mourned the death of a volunteer firefighter, killed when high winds toppled a grain bin onto his car.
Ryan Erickson, 63, of Lake Lillian, Minn., died Thursday evening near Blomkest, according to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office. Blomkest City Clerk Barb Gilberts said he was stationed there to watch the severe weather.
"He was very committed to the fire department, and they do a lot for the city because they save lives," Gilbert said. She said Erickson's death was being considered an "on-call tragedy."
Erickson had served as a volunteer firefighter since he was 18, including about five years as fire chief. He also was active in the community, including service on his township board and the Kandiyohi Cooperative Board.
The National Weather Service confirmed tornado touchdowns Thursday night in western Minnesota's Douglas County, and a night earlier in the Twin Cities suburb of Coon Rapids. The Weather Service also reported widespread damage from straight-line winds in Pope County.
In Carlos, Minn., Rachel Drum said she had to dash to the basement when sirens went off just after 6 p.m. in the community northwest of Alexandria.
"I barely made it," Drum said Friday morning. "The skies turned a dark gray green color, the wind picked up super crazy. Leaves and sticks were flying past the window."
She said she emerged to find a tree had snapped off and landed perilously close to her house. Drum and her boyfriend, Ben Rettig, said they borrowed a chain saw to begin the cleanup. Their neighbors have plenty to clean up, too.
"I've never seen this many trees down," Rettig said.
In Stevens County, strong winds pushed two 70-foot silos off their concrete foundations on a farm near Alberta. The storm also ripped off rooftops, downed power lines, disabled cellphone towers and caused "extensive tree damage" across the county, said Nick Elms, a National Weather Service storm spotter.
"Trees snapped like matchsticks," he said.
Not far away in Morris, ferocious winds knocked down antennas and damaged hangars at the city's municipal airport, Stevens County Sheriff Jason Dingman said. The storm also punched a hole in the fire hall's roof and ripped away the front of a John Deere dealership.
"It was nasty," Dingman said.
Officials met Friday to start relief efforts, including calling in the Red Cross to help provide shelter for any displaced residents, but that has not been needed yet, Dingman said.
"Today it's cleanup and assessment," he said.
Extensive damage was also reported in Alexandria, the Weather Service said.
Warm moist air flowing into Minnesota from Nebraska triggered the violent storms that dropped heavy rain and, Elms said, raced northwest at nearly 90 mph.
With power still out Friday, some school districts delayed starts or switched to an at-home learning day. Among them were Alexandria, Benson, Dawson-Boyd, Lynd, Morris, Parkers Prairie and Wadena-Deer Creek.
A Cass County dispatcher said law enforcement was trying to confirm reports of a tornado touchdown in that county, and that lots of trees were down. In Verndale and Madison in west-central Minnesota, winds peaked at 94 mph, the Weather Service said.
Possible tornadoes were also reported near Pillager and Vining.
The metro area missed the brunt of Thursday's storms, but suffered plenty of destruction the night before. However, no deaths or serious injuries were reported.
A few thousand Xcel Energy customers remained without electricity Friday, mostly in the west metro. That was down from nearly 80,000 during the peak of the storm Wednesday.
On Thursday afternoon, storms dumped rain and hail across many parts of the state with 3 inches of rain reported in Delano, Rockford, Avon, Clara City and Willmar. More than 4 inches was reported in Danube, Wood Lake, Annandale and Watkins, the weather service said.
The Twin Cities saw a record high temperature of 92 degrees Thursday, the weather service said.