Storm packed a punch
Click here to read about a giant oak that toppled in the storm.
by Joni Astrup
High winds blasted the Elk River Landfill during a storm Tuesday morning, blowing out the windows on three pieces of heavy equipment.
Deb Walters of the Elk River Landfill said one driver was in a compactor on top of the landfill when the storm hit suddenly.
“The wind blew out the back of the compactor window,” Walters said.
At that point the driver headed for lower ground to get out of the wind, but the side window blew out as he drove.
He was nicked by shattering glass but not seriously hurt, Walters said.
A third party contractor working at the landfill that day also had windows shattered on two pieces of heavy equipment, a drill rig and a dozer-type machine. One of their employees who was cut by glass was taken to the emergency room but is OK, Walters said.
She said the storm hit so quickly they didn’t have time to take cover.
“Thankfully everyone is fine. That is the most important issue,” she said. “It was very scary with the winds.”
A scary experience
When high winds and rain battered the Elk River area Tuesday morning, Aug. 2, Monique Hargreaves took shelter in the basement of her yellow farmhouse off 237th Avenue in Livonia Township.
“I was so scared,” she said.
After the storm passed, she found that three large trees in her yard had blown down. One fell across the porch at the front of the house.
“It’s bad,” she said as she looked around her yard.
Inside her home there was water damage and things had fallen off the walls.
She called her husband, Jim, who came home from work at Remmele Engineering in Big Lake. Neighbors also stopped by.
Municipal utilities had ‘all hands on deck’
In the storm’s aftermath, crews from Elk River Municipal Utilities (ERMU) were busy trying to restore power as quickly as possible.
“We kind of had all hands on deck,” said Troy Adams, director of operations at ERMU. “It’s actually probably the biggest outage we’ve had in as long as I can remember.”
He said they had a very good team effort and power was restored to the vast majority of customers in ERMU’s service area by later on Tuesday.
The north end of Elk River was particularly hard hit by the high winds. Trees along Highway 169 blew down and took out a big section of overhead line, Adams said. The southbound right lane of Highway 169 near the landfill at 22460 Highway 169 was closed while crews cleaned up trees and fixed power lines.
On Wednesday, ERMU crews went to help Connexus restore power in its service area, Adams said.
Meanwhile, at the Curt Grams home off 142nd Street in Livonia Township, the storm toppled Sherburne County’s largest white oak tree (see related story at right).
The storm also ripped off the top part of Grams’ chicken coop and pulled some of the metal roof off the barn and lean-to. Another large tree also went down.
At VandenBerge Middle School in Elk River, five mature trees were knocked down by high winds, according to Casey Mahon, school district communications manager. No one was hurt.
Three other trees were previously blown over, leaving the school with eight less trees. Principal Marcia Welch does not expect to be able to replace the trees.
Elk River Fire Chief T. John Cunningham said Elk River police and fire departments responded to a number of weather-related calls Tuesday, including trees and power lines that were down.
He said the sirens were not activated in Elk River, as the warning covered a severe thunderstorm and there were no warnings or indicators of tornado activity in that cell. “Other than for a tornado warning, the sirens will sound if there are sustained straight line winds in excess of 75 mph or potential for same,” he said.
Steve Ziemer at Elk River Municipal Utilities said Elk River got more than an inch of rain between 8:15 and 9 a.m.
Here’s summary of fire calls from Tuesday’s storm:
•8:29 a.m.: Power lines down at Jackson Avenue and Seventh Street.
•8:37 a.m.: Commercial fire alarm in the 21600 block of Elk Lake Road.
•8:48 a.m.: Power lines down in the 13200 block of 192nd Avenue.
•8:58 a.m.: Power lines down in the 22400 block of Highway 169 (the southbound right lane was closed by the fire department and Minnesota Department of Transportation personnel).
•9:02 a.m.: Power lines down in the 25600 block of 166th Street (request for mutual aid assistance by the Big Lake Fire Department).
•11:17 a.m.: Odor of gas at Lions Park Center, 1104 Lions Park Dr.
•11:45 a.m.: Power lines down at 174th Avenue and Fillmore Street.