Residents of Granite Falls had about a 10-minute warning Tuesday before a white funnel cloud materialized from the west and bore down on them in a swirling mass of debris.
The tornado snaked along a 12-block path, killing one man and injuring at least 14 people while tearing up 300 to 350 homes, reports Dave Huddleston of CBS station WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. As many as five funnel clouds were spotted at one time, traveling at speeds approaching 160 miles per hour.
"It was gut-wrenching, sickening to see," Mayor Dave Smiglewski said.
Within an hour after the twister hit, Gov. Jesse Ventura called out the National Guard to help with rescues and to keep streets closed until they could be checked for gas leaks.
Emergency workers went house to house through the disaster area, marking Xs on the homes where the safety of the residents could be confirmed.
In many places, there were no houses to mark.
"There's at least a half dozen of them that are gone completely," said Paul Krogstad, the city's public works director.
By Wednesday morning, power had been restored to all the homes where it was possible to do so in the town of some 3,000 people, authorities said.
"Really, the emergency is over," said Duane Hoeschen of the state's Division of Emergency Management. "We are now in the recovery."
No details were released on the fatality because relatives were still being notified, said Yellow Medicine County Deputy Richard Blackwelder. Neighbors said he was an elderly man who was found under his pickup truck.
Fourteen people were treated for cuts and bruises, said George Gerlach, administrator of Granite Falls Municipal Hospital. One of them remained hospitalized.
As the storm swept in around 6 p.m., 10 people and three dogs crouched in a small bathroom at the SuperAmerica gas station.
"We didn't hear any sirens, nothing. The skies got real dark, real fast," cashier Amanda Velde said.
The funnel also toppled portions of a grain elevator complex before whipping trucks around like toys at the nearby United Parcel Service facility.
The weather started turning severe Tuesday afternoon.
"Around midday we got the feeling it wasn't going to be good," said Craig Edwards, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "There was low-level moisture and winds at about 50 miles per hour at 15,000 feet. That was enough energy to spin up severe thunderstorms that possibly led to the tornadoes."
City Councilman Odell Rude was golfing when lightning began to flash over the community about 125 miles west of Minneapolis.
"I got off the course and drove up toward town," he said. "I could see insulation pieces - some as big as blankets - falling from the sky....The winds had stopped, but things were still falling. It was so eerie."
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