EF2 had peak winds of 120 miles per hour
The National Weather Service on Tuesday confirmed what a lot of Crookston residents suspected: A tornado came through town Monday evening.
After conducting an investigation in the wake of Monday's damaging storm, the NWS concluded that the tornado was an EF2 on the tornado strength ranking scale that goes from the weakest, an EF0, to the strongest, an EF5. The NWS says that Monday's EF2 had peak winds of 120 miles per hour.
That sounds about right to Mary Pulkrabek, who lives with her husband, Courtney, about a mile east of Crookston off U.S. Highway 2. Dozens and dozens of trees were uprooted or toppled on their property and neighboring properties owned by the Leach and Wilder families.
"We saw the funnel right around the same time the CODE RED alert came over our phones," Mary told the Times. "It roared, it just absolutely roared. We ran to the basement and the whole house was shaking."
She estimates they have 40 trees down on their property.
The fact that the tornado was "wrapped in heavy rain and more widespread, damaging downburst winds" made it hard to spot during the storm, the NWS report indicates. But it was the damage observed afterward, "extreme" in some places, as well as the appear lofting and throwing of debris indicate tornado activity. Rural residents reporting the "roar" of the storm and it's "brief and catastrophic impacts" also make the case for a tornado, the NWS states.
The NWS describes the storm as a "large scale bow-echo squall line" that moved across northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. The tornado formed at the apex of the squall line and touched down around four miles west-northwest of Eldred and moved through Crookston and into southwest Red Lake County, near Gentilly, and ending around four miles south of Red Lake Falls.
The EF2 tornado had path length of 27 miles and its peak width was 800 yards, the NWS states. Its duration is estimated from 8:50 p.m. to 9:25 p.m.
NWS investigators started their probe in Roome Township, near Eldred, and continued east-northeast through Crookston and Gentilly, and ended in northern Lake Pleasant Township in southwest Red Lake County.
The path of damage indicated a tornado and not just straight-line winds, especially the severity of the damage where the tornado initially touched down. Farm buildings were damaged and even imploded, the NWS states, and a 1.5-mile stretch of power poles were topped, consistent with tornadic activity. Seventeen empty tanker cars were also topped just south of Crookston as well.
The NWS report is preliminary at this point and could change as more data is gathered.