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Dave Lessard gases up his truck loaded with broken tree limbs and branches Tuesday morning in Crookston as crews worked to clean up following Monday evening's storm. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

Two tornadoes confirmed during Monday night storm

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Grand Forks, ND - The National Weather Service has confirmed two tornadoes touched down in the northern Red River Valley during Monday night’s storm.

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One of them was an EF-2 tornado in Polk County near Crookston, while the other was an EF-1 tornado in Grand Forks County.

Tornadoes are fairly common in the Red River Valley, according to Greg Gust, warning coordination meteorologist.

“We typically have at least 10 tornadoes in and around the area in any given year, one per county per year on average,” he said. “Both 2012 and 2013 ran about half the long-term normals, due to either drought or the prolonged cold of those years.  This year has also been running slow and cold.”

The Crookston-area tornado tracked through portions of Polk and Red Lake counties of Minnesota, at 8:40 p.m. about 4 miles west-northwest of Eldred, Minn., in southwest Polk County and ending at about 9:25 p.m. about 4 miles south of Red Lake Falls, Minn., in Red Lake County, according to Gust.

The tornado, which tracked through the south end of Crookston, traveled about 27 miles and had a maximum width of about 800 yards.

‘Extreme damage’

While the tornado likely was wrapped in heavy rain and fierce, damaging winds, Gust said the tornado’s track was distinguishable by a path of more extreme damage and the throwing of debris, according to weather service experts who examined the terrain in the storm’s aftermath.     

Several significant events were consistent with low-end EF-2 tornadic winds, according to the weather service.

They include the rolling, or upending of a line of 17 empty tanker-style rail cars rolled onto their sides at the American Crystal Sugar Co-op’s Crookston plant on Crookston’s south end.

Other EF-2 characteristics included the imploding of a main door on an equipment shed on a rural farmstead, and the demolition of large steel grain bins.

“The Eldred-Crookston-Gentilly tornado was a fairly long-tracking tornado,” Gust said, very similar to an EF-2 tornado on July 22, 2013 in the Mahnomen-Roy Lake area of Minnesota’s Mahnomen County.

“The Mahnomen tornado was quite unique, though, in that it occurred after midnight, and had a somewhat stronger and more distinct track, he said. “This Crookston tornado was so wrapped in widespread damaging winds that it was much less of a distinct track.”

Kempton to Arvilla

The EF1 tornado was confirmed in Grand Forks County between 8:29 and 8:41 p.m. Monday.

The tornado, which left a path about 300 yards wide, traveled intermittently about 8 miles, from about 2 miles east of Kempton, N.D., to about 2 miles southeast of Arvilla, N.D., according to the weather service.

The tornado snarled and broke large trees in shelterbelts. At least one farm outbuilding collapsed, and a few rural residences and farm buildings had Quonset doors and shingles torn off, according to the report.

Peak winds were estimated at about 90 mph.

An EF1 tornado, according to the Enhanced Fujita scale, is described as one with wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph, while an EF2 event is marked by winds between 111 and 135 mph.

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Kevin Bonham
Kevin Bonham covers news from northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native, who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for nearly 30 years. 
(701) 780-1110
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