RIVER FALLS, Wisconsin — Just before 10 p.m. on Saturday, Judy Edgar received an alert on her phone about a possible tornado near River Falls, Wisconsin. She went into the basement and about a half hour later emerged to find the family’s barn destroyed. Her home, just across the driveway, had no damage.
“Isn’t that just incredible?… kind of almost a miracle,” Judy Edgar said.
Judy’s son, Chris Edgar, is the fifth generation to run the family farm.
“It’s almost surreal. It’s a shock. Yesterday at this time it was standing and here we are a big mess,” Chris said.
Chris said the barn had been there since the first Edgar generation came in 1902.
“It saw a lot of wind damage or wind over the years but I guess it met its match,” Chris said.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Chanhassen confirmed that an EF-1 tornado caused the damage. Preliminary data from the NWS shows it was one of four tornadoes that happened on Saturday in parts of Minnesota and western Wisconsin. No injuries were reported from any of the tornadoes.
According to the NWS, an EF-1 tornado occurred on July 18 just before 1 a.m., between the areas of Ogilvie and Braham, Minnesota. Peak wind speed was 90 mph. NWS said, “This tornado was embedded within a line of severe thunderstorms producing straight line wind damage, but a concentrated area of damage exhibiting tornado characteristics tracked across northwest Isanti County.”
Then just before 1:30 a.m., the NWS said an EF-0 occurred on the west and south sides of Rush Lake in Braham.
Saturday night, the NWS confirmed an EF-0 tornado from Woodbury to Afton, Minnesota. No damage was found and no damage reports were received.
Shortly after, an EF-1 tornado moved 9.5 miles from the Hastings area, into River Falls, Wisconsin.
“So far all I’ve seen indicates this was an EF-1 tornado, max winds up to 100 mph,” said Eric Ahasic, a meteorologist with the NWS in Chanhassen.
Ahasic was out Sunday surveying the damage.
“So if anyone ever thinks tornadoes can’t cross rivers, that’s a myth. This one crossed the St. Croix River, actually had some of the strongest winds that I’ve seen with it,” Ahasic said.
The EF-1 tornado caused extensive tree damage along the path and the heaviest damage occurred on top of a bluff as the tornado crossed the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. A few farm outbuildings were also damaged, including ones on Edgar’s property.
While the family has a lot to clean up, they’re thankful no one was injured. Their three horses were found unhurt and Judy stayed safe in the basement.
“She’s not replaceable but the buildings are,” Chris said. “So we’ll clean it up and we’ll rebuild and we’ll move forward.”
The tornado near River Falls was not the only one to touch down in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado struck about 50 miles north of the Twin Cities early Saturday and mangled docks and damaged boats on West Rush Lake in Chisago County.
Jeremiah Sedler, whose family lives on the lake, said the strong winds blew off the garage door of their home and ripped off the boat lift cover. Their canoe was tossed into the water and sank.
“We were in the basement and the sound coming in was completely calm and then sounds like a freight train rolling through,” he told the Star Tribune Sunday.
Damage to neighboring docks and boats was worse, he said.
Another tornado traveled from Woodbury to Afton Saturday, one also hit northwest Isanti County near Ogilvie, and another struck near Hastings and ended near River Falls, Wisconsin.
There were no reports of injuries.
by Heidi Wigdahl (2020, July 19 | Updated 2020, July 20) KARE11