At least three people were killed Thursday when a series of tornadoes ripped through communities throughout the state.
Wes Michaels, a gas station owner in Mentor, was killed when a tornado struck his station, according to the Star Tribune. Michaels’ daughter had been working in the family-owned station earlier in the night and he stopped in to check on her when he heard about the impending storm. When he saw the tornado headed straight for the station, he told his daughter and the few customers present to get in the cooler, his daughter told the Star Tribune. Michaels was killed when the gas station was demolished. Mentor is about 260 northwest of the Twin Cities.
In Almora, an elderly woman was killed. Preliminary reports said that Margie Schulke, 78, and her husband, Norman Schulke, 77, had both been killed in the storm. The Schulkes saw their home entirely demolished and ran to hide in a ditch, according to the Fergus Falls Daily Journal. Margie Schulke was reported dead on the scene and Norman Schulke was taken to the hospital with two broken shoulders, his granddaughter told the newspaper. His current condition is unknown. Almora is about 160 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.
A third person died in Freeborn County, which is about 360 miles south of Mentor and 100 miles south of the Twin Cities. Little is known at this time about the fatality which occurred west of Albert Lea.
The last time someone died as the result of a tornado in Minnesota was in May 2008. Two-year-old Nathaniel Prindle was killed at his family’s home in Hugo on Memorial Day.
The tornadoes that touched down in Minnesota Thursday caused immense destruction throughout the state. Up to 10 tornadoes touched down in Freeborn County, primarily on farm land rather than in densely populated areas. Tornadoes also touched the ground in northern Minnesota, causing the most destruction in Wadena, where nearly one-fourth of residents’ homes, the hockey rink, high school and community center were destroyed.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty released a statement saying that he and Kris Eide, the state’s homeland security and emergency management director, would visit many of the impacted areas Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost in the severe storms that swept across our state this evening,” Pawlenty said in a statement. “Our emergency management officials have been working closely with local officials and we stand ready to assist in every way needed.”
Tornado on the ground in southern Minnesota, two killed in Almora
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