Fierce winds flatten trees, cut power, level grain bins

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Monday, July 8, 1991
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Harlo Wheeler inspects the hole where a wind-toppled tree crashed through the garage roof Sunday on his farm two miles northeast of Le Roy. The storm was reported to have winds reaching close to 70 mph, the National Weather Service said. No one was injured in the storm, authorities said. Post-Bulletin Photo by Phil Beighley. A violent thunderstorm spawned reports of funnel clouds and hurled 70-mph winds across parts of Mower and Fillmore counties Sunday.

There were no reports of injuries, but the severe weather knocked down trees, pummeled a set of grain bins and cut power to the city of Lyle for more than five hours. Some residents reported a treetop-level tornado there.

Electricity also was out in Adams for part of the afternoon, the Mower County Sheriff's department said.

The storm swept northeast across a 90-mile path from about Rice Lake State Park in Iowa past Chatfield in Fillmore County. ``It basically went through a lot of areas where people weren't,'' said Jim Belles, National Weather Service meteorologist in Rochester.

But the storm came too close for comfort for farmers Todd Harrison and his father, Gary. They scrambled for the basement of their house about two miles northeast of Lyle when a funnel cloud appeared, Todd said.

``We . . . looked out the picture window and there was branches flying,'' he said. ``All of a sudden, Dad looked up and said `Head for the basement!' ''

``He said it was right out over the edge of the trees just a little bit southwest of the house,'' Todd said. They found one big evergreen tree sheered off at the base and a number of tree limbs in their yard. Some soybeans in their fields were flattened and some were stripped of their leaves, he said. Nearby corn also was damaged.

High winds damaged five of eight large, steel grain bins on farmer Don Ransom's land about a half mile north of Lyle. One empty bin was blown over. ``It was taken right off the foundation,'' Ransom said. ``I've got four other bins pushed in.

``I think it was a twister. It probably was about treetop level, I think,'' he said.

The Mower County Sheriff's Department also had a report that a funnel cloud briefly touched down at an athletic field in Adams.

Tracking northeast, the storm sent a tree crashing through a garage north of Le Roy, and a Weather Service spotter at Ostrander clocked winds at 70 mph. Farmer Ken Meyer, who lives about two miles east of Ostrander, said the storm built up a large dark cloud and winds bent the tops of trees almost sideways. The weather hit the area south of Spring Valley about 12:45 p.m.

High winds continued as the storm swept into the Chatfield area, but by then the storm was dissipating, Belles said. Some traces continued into southern Winona County.

Radar showed unusually violent wind activity, but ``we're not really sure'' if a funnel cloud landed, he said.

Just before the storm moved into Minnesota, the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch and then upgraded it to a warning. The alerts were canceled about 2:15 p.m. after the storm had weakened and its remnants had moved into western Wisconsin.p