Storms Kill 10 Year Old Girl In Minn.

A young boy rides his bike Sunday morning, Sept. 17, 2006 in Rogers, Minn., near damaged homes after high winds swept through the town Saturday night, causing one death and damaging hundreds of homes. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
AP
A 10-year-old girl died after a house collapsed when severe storms swept through Rogers, damaging hundreds of homes and scattering debris across the city, officials said Sunday.

The girl was at a neighbor's house with her 19-year-old brother and three other children he was baby sitting when the house collapsed about 10 p.m. Saturday, Police Chief Keith Oldfather said.

"The top floor is the only thing sitting there. The roof is in the basement. It literally collapsed ... the house fell in," said Oldfather, who got an aerial view of the damage Sunday morning.

He said between 200 and 300 homes sustained significant damage.

"It's more severe than we thought," he said. "It just came out of nowhere and really did a lot of damage."

Six other people were injured, and two remained hospitalized Sunday morning, authorities said.

The damage was still being assessed Sunday, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty was expected to do a flyover of the area later in the afternoon. In some neighborhoods, vehicles were crumpled by snapped trees and yards were littered with shingles and other debris. Garage doors were broken and areas of rooftops and siding had been peeled off by the sheer force of the wind. Some residents covered gaping holes in their houses with blue tarp, as a light drizzle fell on the area.

The damage seemed sporadic, with some blocks devastated, while other seemed virtually untouched.

The National Weather Service was viewing the damage Sunday to determine whether it was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.

Some residents began the job of cleaning up while others walked around the neighborhood Sunday to take in the devastation. Many seemed stunned.

"We don't know what to do. We've never had to do this before," said Rick Walz, who was walking Sunday with his wife, Marcy, and a dog.

Walz said his house of 8½ years sustained severe roof damage, and he has no power and no ceiling in his kitchen.

He said he was sleeping in bed Saturday night when his kids, ages 12 and 14, told him a storm was hitting. He said he put his shorts on, got knocked down on the bed, and by the time he got up, the storm was over.

"It always happens to somebody else in Oklahoma, or wherever," he said. "You see it on TV .. but until you stand in the middle of it, it's unbelievable."

The split-level house where the 10-year-old girl died was smashed in and looked as if it had been pushed from its foundation. Some children on bicycles rode past the house on Sunday and stopped to look at it.

When the storm hit, the girl was with her 19-year-old brother, who was baby-sitting three other children.

Officials said the children held hands, but somehow the girl got separated from the group. The house came tumbling down, and everyone but the girl was able to climb out of the rubble.

It took firefighters about a half hour to cut through the debris to find the girl, who was unconscious when they found her. She was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

One of the boys, 12-year-old Ryan Heibel, told the Star Tribune that everyone was on the first floor when all of the sudden there was a "huge boom." He said he couldn't see anything but felt a weight on him as the house collapsed and he heard the baby sitter yelling.

Ryan said he saw a light and was able to get out of the house. The boys' mother and father were at a friend's house in Crystal. Their mother, Beth, could hear screaming and commotion when she picked up their voicemail messages on her cell phone.

The boys said they did not hear storm sirens.

Tim Turnbull, director of emergency preparedness for Hennepin County, said the sirens were activated in Rogers before the storm hit, but people indoors may not have heard them.

"When the wind is real heavy, the siren sound can sometimes be altered in terms of your ability to hear it, based on how heavy the wind is from any particular direction," he said. "The false expectation that people have is that they can hear that siren go off when they're indoors. And if they've got the TV on and that sort of thing, it's very difficult."

Karen Trammell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there was no tornado warning for Rogers at the time of the storm, but a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued.

She said the storm system had developed to the west several days ago, but "as far as any kind of tornadic activity, that just unfortunately happened to develop right in the populated area when it moved in there."

At one point on Sunday, Xcel Energy reported 10,000 customers without power in Rogers. Downed power lines were strewn about in parts of the city and officials controlled who went in and out of those areas. Residents were required to show proof of residence, and wristbands were issued to those who lived in the area.

Officials opened the Hennepin County Library in Rogers, which is normally closed on Sundays, so residents without power could check their e-mail and use other resources.

Many homes in the area are valued between $300,000 and $500,000, officials said. Some had just received new rooftop or siding materials after they were damaged in a hailstorm last year.