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Two deaths reported as storms with hurricane-force winds sweep across Minnesota, South Dakota

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At least two people died as severe storms packing winds in excess of 100 miles per hour swept across eastern South Dakota and much of western and central Minnesota on Thursday.

Emergency management officials in Kandiyohi County, Minn., reported one person died near Blomkest, south of Willmar, when a grain bin fell onto an occupied vehicle at about 7 p.m.

The Argus Leader reported at least one person died in Sioux Falls, S.D., as storms moved through that area. KELO-TV reported there also were people critically injured as the storms moved through South Dakota.

More than 70,000 homes and businesses remained without power across the region early Friday as damage assessment and cleanup continued after the second straight night of widespread severe weather.

Hurricane-force winds

There were several reports of funnel clouds and tornadoes on Thursday — including one near Pillager in central Minnesota, and another at Castlewood in eastern South Dakota.

But widespread, hurricane-force straight-line winds appear to have caused most of the damage.

A weather station at Tripp, S.D. — southwest of Sioux Falls — reported a wind gust of 107 mph as storms moved through Thursday afternoon.

A 102 mph wind gust was reported near Gary, S.D. — near the Minnesota state line. Wind gusts of 94 mph were reported at the airport in Madison, Minn., as well as at Verndale, Minn., in Wadena County, on Thursday evening. A weather station at Alexandria, Minn., reported an 87 mph gust.

Those winds picked up dirt from farm fields, creating a dust cloud as the storm front swept across eastern South Dakota and into western Minnesota. Ominous, rolling shelf clouds rolled across much of the state.

The winds caused widespread damage to buildings, power lines and trees across the region.

A dispatch to the National Weather Service on Thursday night from near Long Prairie in Todd County, Minn., reported “house fine, shed and barn missing at the moment. Trees and power lines down all over the county.”

Airplane hangers were damaged at the airport in Morris, Minn.

A spotter report from Chokio, Minn., noted “power poles snapped at base, live wires, 3.5 feet in circumference trees snapped and on houses.”

Building damage also was reported in Osakis, Alexandria and Holloway, among other Minnesota communities.

The strong winds also overturned semis along Interstate 94 near Alexandria, forcing a closure of the eastbound lanes. The freeway has since reopened — though there are ongoing reports of flooding covering some roads in central and western Minnesota due to heavy rain.

Heavy rain also was reported in northeast Minnesota, where a flash flood warning was in effect until 9:15 a.m. Friday for the North Shore, amid concerns that rain-swollen rivers could wash out bridges and culverts.

The National Weather Service reported that 1 to 2 inches of rain fell overnight, adding to rivers that already were running high. Some river gauges along the North Shore showed a sharp uptick in water levels.

Flood warnings also continue in the Rainy River basin along the Canadian border, and in the Red River valley.

The Twin Cities metro area — which was hit hard by severe storms on Wednesday night — was largely spared by Thursday night’s storms. Winds gusted to 53 mph at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as storms moved through late Thursday.

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