Midwest storms spawn tornadoes

Thursday, June 18, 2009 | 11:32 a.m. CDT; updated 8:33 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 18, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS — Powerful storms that rolled across the Midwest on Wednesday brought heavy rain, strong winds and spawned several apparent tornadoes, damaging homes and businesses, tossing railcars off their tracks and knocking out power to thousands.

In southeastern Minnesota, daylight Thursday revealed a path of destruction left by an apparent tornado in the town of Austin, where vehicles were thrown about, homes were heavily damaged and power lines were knocked down. At least one man suffered minor injuries.

Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm said it appeared up to five twisters had hit Wednesday night. The National Weather Service was working to confirm what had happened.

"It kind of developed on top of us," Stiehm said. "It just kind of — boom, it was just there and the intensity got real bad."

Mike Schuster, who lives in north Austin, told the Austin Daily Herald that he was on his deck when the tornado came out of nowhere, bowing one side of his house, destroying his shed and flattening his trees.

"When we came here there were no trees on this lot," he said of his home, built in 1979. "Now there are no trees again."

Power had been restored up to 80 percent of the town by late Thursday morning.

In southern Nebraska, a tornado leveled a house near Aurora, and high winds damaged a nearby pet products plant.

A National Weather Service team checked the damage Thursday and said the tornado ran a quarter mile south of the P&G Pet Care plant. No major injuries were reported. The tornado destroyed a house and outbuildings, knocked down power poles and overturned about a dozen railroad cars.

The National Weather Service said a tornado that struck farther west in Buffalo County damaged a Quonset hut and at least two farms.

In western and central Illinois, storms broke tree limbs and knocked out power for thousands of residents.

In central Iowa, authorities said a semitrailer was blown off Interstate 35 and roofs were ripped off a house and barn.

In northwest Missouri, a storm damaged buildings and toppled trees and power lines in the small town of Norborne. Mike July, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, said straight-line winds reached 74 mph.

Storms continued to threaten some central states on Thursday. In southern Indiana, strong winds blew 12 empty railcars off the tracks near the Greene County town of Worthington as thunderstorms moved through the state.

Moderate flooding was happening along the Wild Rice River at Abercrombie in southeastern North Dakota, the National Weather Service said. A flood warning was extended until next Wednesday for the Red River in Fargo, where the river is expected to rise to 23.3 feet by Saturday afternoon — more than 5 feet above flood stage.

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