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Published August 20, 2009, 08:29 AM

Cleanup starts after tornadoes hit Midwest states

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Residents began cleaning up Thursday after tornadoes and severe storms slammed a large part of the Midwest, tearing the roofs from buildings and overturning vehicles.

By: NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Residents began cleaning up Thursday after tornadoes and severe storms slammed a large part of the Midwest, tearing the roofs from buildings and overturning vehicles.

The National Weather Service in Davenport, Iowa, confirmed Thursday that a tornado touched down Wednesday south of Stanley in northeastern Iowa. Another tornado was confirmed Wednesday night in Hastings, Minn., about 30 miles southeast of Minneapolis.

The weather service also was investigating reports of tornadoes in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

In Illinois, at least 19 people were hurt and dozens of homes and businesses destroyed in the Springfield area. One person was injured when the wind flipped a car and another was blown off his motorcycle, said Roscoe Cook, nursing supervisor at St. John's Hospital in Springfield.

Winds tore off part of a 90-year-old metal church steeple in downtown Minneapolis and damaged at least 40 homes in south of the city.

Jack Freitag said he was standing in the lobby of the Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis when he saw "a wall cloud from the south coming across the parking lot." Then a "very loud roar" came through as he saw signs being blown around in the wind.

The wind tore off part of the church's 90-year-old metal steeple around 2 p.m. while about 120 people were inside, said church spokesman Joe Bjordal.

"I was worried about the people then," said Freitag, who told everyone to seek shelter in the church's basement. No one was injured.

Outside the church, strong winds ripped apart large outdoor tents and scattered chairs and folding tables across the parking lot that were set up for the national Evangelical Lutheran Church in America convention. The church was scheduled to serve breakfast to guests attending the event at the Minneapolis Convention Center next door.

"I think we're out of business" for entertaining convention visitors, Bjordal said.

At the Electric Fetus, a landmark independent music store near downtown, strong winds shattered one of the store's windows and caused the roof to cave in.

"It was just the loudest crashing noise," said Stephanie Covart, the store's co-owner. "We didn't know what was happening."

A glass panel on a nearby bus shelter was shattered, leaving scattered pieces of glass on the sidewalk.

Meteorologist Dan Luna said it was the sort of storm that meteorologists dread — it didn't look dangerous until it was.

"We worry about the really benign thunderstorm that develops a tornado in the metropolitan area," Luna said. "These sort-lived ones form very quickly and dissipate very fast. They are very hard to predict."

Luna said crews would evaluate the damage in downtown Minneapolis to see if there was more.

Mayor R.T. Rybak toured the area later Wednesday to assess damage and saw a hole in the Convention Center's roof that caused water to leak in. Although there were many reports of downed trees and property damage, there were no reports of injuries, city officials said in a statement.

"It obviously had a significant physical impact but at this point it looks as if we're very fortunate there were relatively few injuries," Rybak said.

First responders were going house-to-house in the area looking for victims.

In northern Indiana, a storm tore the roofs from an apartment building and middle school gymnasium in Chesterton and damaged some nearby homes. Chesterton town manager Bernie Doyle said a tornado was suspected, but the National Weather Service had not confirmed it Thursday morning. No injuries were reported, Doyle said.

As many as four tornadoes may have hit northeastern Iowa. Along with the one confirmed near Stanley, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Boyne said tornadoes were reported near Fredericksburg, Hawkeye and West Union.

Barns were destroyed and about 40 feet of roof ripped from a vacant poultry building north of West Union. Trees fell on homes near Hawkeye, Fayette County emergency management coordinator Mike McCloud said.

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