WATCH (& read): Residents reel from tornado damage

This family home, as well as a few others on Little Elk Lake, are uninhabitable after the March 6 tornado.
This family home, as well as a few others on Little Elk Lake and around Baldwin Township, are uninhabitable after the March 6 tornado.

The people and buildings in Baldwin Township bore the brunt of the severe weather in the Princeton-Zimmerman area in the early evening of Monday, March 6. Weather caused major damage to homes and property along 290th Avenue adjacent to Little Elk Lake, where at least two families were displaced by the storm and at least a dozen or so homes sustained major damage from high winds and fallen trees.
Brothers Howard and Eddie Mostad and sister Jessica (Mostad) Louiselle were in the neighborhood helping their parents Lynnsey and Edward, who were displaced from the home where the three grew up as children. They stood in shock as emergency workers, tree removal crews, law enforcement, power company employees, news teams and others filtered in and around the neighborhood.

The Mostad kids said their parents are OK; the Red Cross was out visiting them and had given them a voucher card for lodging as well as bottled water. Jessica said they are missing their cats, but the dog had made it after being late getting into the basement.

Jessica said her parents had seen the tornado coming out their windows – as well as chunks of ice flying up from the lake – and dashed into the basement. Her dad had bolted back upstairs to grab a flashlight and said as he scampered back down to the basement, he could feel the roof of the house lift off.

The siblings live in Becker, Sauk Rapids and Minneapolis and said it’s the first tornado that has affected the house. Eddie and Howard are both in the construction business, so the three all agreed when Jessica said, “We’ll rebuild.” None of them knew exactly how old the house is, but they knew there had been an addition to it in 1954.

Their father had explained to a bystander that he’d lived there all his life and never seen anything like Monday’s weather. Everyone was aware of a neighboring family that was OK but had been displaced.
Kathy Orrock lives in Elk River and her daughter nearby called to tell her about the severe weather. Orrock’s small family cabin in the 290th Avenue neighborhood now has a large tree lying on top of it.
“It’s worse inside!” she said.

Orrock said her parents had lived next door, and her dad had planted the (now large) tree that fell on the cabin. She joked with her siblings that it’s all their dad’s fault. She’s a little heartsick about the damage, since she has many fond family memories of the home, but said she feels grateful nobody was hurt. Orrock also said her family has another cabin in Alexandria that’s more “fixed up” and would have been a bigger loss in the severe weather.

Jerry and Joyce Mueller, who live on 305th Avenue, said they had their TV up loud to hear the weather when the broadcaster said a tornado had been spotted. The Muellers said right as the word was finished, they were by a big bay window and saw the tall trees in their yard bending toward the house. That’s when they made a beeline for the basement.

Joyce said the wind was so loud they couldn’t hear the TV and that the whole experience was scary. By light of the next morning, the Muellers saw that the damaging weather had carved out a path of broken trees dangerously close to the house. The Muellers sustained damage to the corner of a pole shed, lost a vent off their main house and had two skylights fly off a rental home on their property.

The Muellers said their neighbors, the Jensens, had lost a sturdy log-cabin-type structure and sustained other damage. A heavy glass table on their outside deck had disappeared and was nowhere around. They observed how their trees were toppled but about 100 yards away trees were untouched. Jerry said the couple has been working on clearing the trees around the house, especially since some in their area are affected by oak wilt.

He said, “The weak ones all went.”

Dave Looney owns the E&N Appliance business on County Road 1/144th Street and was incredulous that one of his big, heavy-duty trucks lay on its side. He lives nearby and said his wife was working at the office where the truck was parked and he called her to tell her about the severe weather warnings, but they had no cell service. He wanted her to come home and jokes that he was really just worried about the nice car she was driving.

Looney said he’s been in business 54 years and had never seen anything like the weather that hit Monday night. He anticipated that it was going to be expensive to have a tow truck come to right the heavy truck and lamented the fact that he’d only recently gotten it running with an inexpensive part.
“I just got the thing fixed,” he said.

While utility crews worked throughout the night and restored power to about 3,000 homes, several sections of various roads were closed as they continued working on power lines. A media release from the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office states that residential neighborhoods had been closed at County Road 15 at 253 1/2 and 257th Avenues and at 165th Street and 257th Avenue in Orrock Township. A section of 290th Avenue between 138th and 142nd streets was also closed as storm cleanup continues.
The release states that additional volunteers are not being sought, and the sheriff’s office asks residents to keep roadways clear. The sheriff’s office confirms that while there are multiple reports of property damage, there has been no report of injuries.

Official assessments are underway to confirm that Monday’s weather included tornadic activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service lists multiple tornadoes throughout Missouri, Kansas and Iowa and dozens of instances of hail and high wind throughout Minnesota. While insurance agents and scientists analyze the particular characteristics of the damage to determine if it was a tornado, more than a handful of people affected by the damage said they saw a funnel cloud.

UPDATE: As of the morning of March 8, two events previously listed as high winds were moved to the tornado list, including Sherburne and Freeborn counties.