Tricounty News

Storm damage impact on Stearns County



Stearns County was hit by two storms this week. In response, Stearns County Emergency Management activated its Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning to coordinate cleanup operations in Stearns and Benton Counties. (Stearns is assisting Benton County because of the shared Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program which is managed by the St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.) The Emergency Operations Center has been staffed by CERT volunteers who answer the hotline, the American Red Cross, and Stearns County Highway, Information Services, Building Facilities and Emergency Management.

The following is a summary of the storms' impact on the county and what actions have been taken to date:

Storms

Thursday, Aug. 12, thunderstorms marched across Stearns County producing two tornadoes. The National Weather Service conducted a site survey Saturday, Aug. 14, of potential tornado touchdowns. They confirmed an F1 tornado, which traveled for five miles just north of Belgrade, causing minor to major damage to five farm places. A brief F0 tornado struck another farm just south of St. Augusta causing damage to that farm also. Strong winds from those thunderstorms caused additional damage to several properties in the Rockville area. Emergency Management had the Civil Air Patrol fly two missions Friday, Aug. 13, to complete an aerial assessment of the damages.

Friday, the worst of the two storms hit Stearns County. A line of thunderstorms with winds up to 81 miles per hour swept through the northern portion of the county causing widespread damage; mostly to trees, but to crops and homes too. Some of the communities impacted were Avon, Holdingford, St. Wendel, Sartell, and St. Stephen. LeSauk and Brockway Townships were especially hard hit. There are thousands of trees down. There were 1,200 homeowners in Stearns and Benton Counties without power. Sunday morning, Aug. 15, all Stearns Electric customers had their power restored. Xcel Energy said they would have completed their service restoration by 3 p.m. Emergency Management is currently getting damage assessments from affected municipalities, utility companies and the American Red Cross.

Action taken

All county and township roads have been opened. As of noon Sunday, Aug. 15, there were 33 requests for help in cutting up trees on private properties. It is anticipated that there will be many more requests as homeowners return from vacation or weekend trips. Many homeowners are taking care of their own cleanup. Stearns County Emergency Management coordinated resources to clean up properties for those who didn't have access to help, i.e. the elderly or handicapped. RSVP is handling the on-scene coordination of volunteers. At this time all work is being done only with established volunteer organizations; those with experience with this type of cleanup operation. They are the Jewish organization NECHAMA, Methodist Disaster Services, Stearns-Benton County CERT Members and the Civil Air Patrol. The American Red Cross is supporting the efforts by feeding the volunteers and others involved in the clean up. They have served 850 meals so far and will continue their feeding operations throughout the day.

Damage assessment

Other than the thousands of trees that were blown down, there was only one report of an injury and no deaths. The Red Cross did a "windshield assessment" of damages in Stearns and Benton Counties. Their assessment shows 125 homes with affected damage (shingles off, damaged siding) and 15 homes with minor structural damage.

The future

The EOC was open throughout the day Sunday, Aug. 15, and will possibly be open into the early part of next week to continue coordination of the cleanup. An update will be given at Tuesday's Board Meeting.