Was Monday night's storm worse than the August 2001 wind storm? The debate is on. While countless trees are snapped or uprooted, cars are flattened and homes and businesses are
damaged, so far no injuries have been reported.
Amid the ubiquitous growl of chain saws, countless downed trees, damaged businesses, crushed vehicles and power crews trying to restore electrical service, longtime Crookston residents who got their first look Tuesday morning at the damage inflicted on the community from Monday night's wind storm were wondering, was this worse than the August 2001 wind storm that wreaked havoc around town?
Public Works Director Pat Kelly said he doesn't think so. He said wind gusts reached 100 miles per hour almost 13 years ago, and he's not convinced the wind was that strong Monday night. He's not ruling it out, however.
"Last night was a fast-moving storm, it got here fast and moved out fast," Kelly said. "The 2001 storm blew a lot longer and just sat over us. But I'm not saying last night wasn't nasty because there's a lot of damage."
Another difference between the two storms is that Monday's windy, rainy blast that packed lots of thunder and lightning seemed to hit parts of Crookston really hard, while downing only a few trees in other parts of the community. "Sampson's Addition came out of this really good; the northwest part of town, most of them didn't even lose power at all. The northeast, they're pretty good, too," Kelly said. "It seems like the system came through the industrial park, through the Woods Addition, through Jerome's Addition and out to the east of town, which got hit hard. Along that path through town, it’s really bad."
Kelly said he was watching the weather coverage on TV Monday night and knew it was going to be a rough night. "There were pink dots on the radar just south of Crookston; you don't see pink very often on the radar," he said. "I thought, this is going to be bad."
But no one was hurt, and pretty much everyone on Tuesday who had something to say about the storm – even if they were now the owner of a crushed car or a home with a tree on top of it – was quick to point that out as they tried to put the storm's damage in perspective.
Otter Tail Power crews, reinforced by a workforce from elsewhere totaling up to 30, are trying to get power restored to the community as rapidly as possible.
As for all those downed trees, Kelly said the city is going to do what it can to help residents get rid of them. After closing down the city's burn site to the public several years ago – at the suggestion of the MPCA – Kelly said the site will be manned by city personnel and open to the public during working hours at least through Thursday and maybe longer, and citizens with trailers and pickups will be able to haul limbs to the site themselves. If people with downed trees and limbs aren’t able to haul them away but get them to their boulevard or curbside, Kelly said city crews will come by and pick them up. But he stresses that people who utilize the city's services will need to be patient.
"Really, they do, because this is going to take some time," he said. "We're happy to help, but everyone is obviously very busy and it's going to take some time. Get the trees to your boulevard or curbside, and we'll get there eventually."
Those who hire professional tree services to remove trees and limbs, Kelly added, will need to utilize the professional services to haul the trees and limbs from their property.
The burn site is located past American Crystal Sugar and the city's lagoon site.
So was any of Monday night's damage inflicted by a tornado? That's another hot topic of conversation, especially around one mile east of Crookston, where the Leach, Pulkrabek and Wilder homes probably have more trees down than they have standing in the wake of Monday's storm.
The National Weather Service reported a funnel cloud touched down briefly seven miles west of Crookston but ascended back into the sky quickly. No other tornado reports have come in.
"I don't know what it was for sure," Tina Leach said while walking around her tree-strewn yard just off Highway 2 East Tuesday morning. "It seems like the trees are laying in all different directions, not like a straight-line wind that would come through and, you’d think, blow them all down the same way."
Leach wasn't home when the storm hit; she was driving home between Red Lake Falls and Gentilly. "I couldn't believe how fast it hit around me," she said. "I pulled over and prayed because I thought it was going to lift me right off the ground."