Storm blasts furniture store in Fountain
FOUNTAIN — Strong winds and heavy rain Wednesday afternoon threatened to put a small-town staple out of business. Helping hands — and a dose of luck — made sure that didn't happen.
In a situation that office manager Gina Jaquith called "crazy" and "scary," Drury's Furniture had part of its 13,000-square-foot warehouse tin roof blown off in the storm. The wind lifted it and sent it sliding across the other half, creating a loud screeching noise as two warehouse employees ducked for cover.
One 20-foot by 50-foot section landed on Main Street in downtown Fountain, while another section was deposited in an alley. No one was injured.
"Really, really scary," said owner Mike Drury, whose grandfather opened the store in 1925. "Thank heavens nobody was standing around or any cars were driving by because that could have been deadly."
That opening exposed thousands of dollars of merchandise to the elements, which dumped between one and four inches of rain on southeastern Minnesota and northeast Iowa, according to the National Weather Service. However, nearly a dozen people — Drury's employees, nearby business owners and others simply passing by — were soon in the warehouse helping to move items under the remaining roof in an attempt to save the boxed items wrapped in plastic.
"It was just amazing," Jaquith said. "We had guys pulling over to help us out because we've been here forever. Within 10 minutes, we had 10 guys at the warehouse coming to help move things."
The warehouse is located across the street from the main store, which opened as usual today.
An insurance agent visited the site Wednesday afternoon to assess the damage, but no estimates are currently available. The remaining roof wasn't enough to protect all the furniture, so some loss is expected.
Drury displayed a wry sense of humor Thursday morning after having a night to reflect. He's now planning a warehouse sale in mid June, offering discounts on any items that were damaged in the storm.
"It's kind of funny, but sad, too," he said.
Similar, albeit less severe, situations played out across the region on Wednesday. Parts of Fillmore County got 2 1/2 inches of rain. Rochester got about a quarter inch.
The storm packed high winds in the afternoon and did some damage across southeastern Minnesota. A National Weather Service storm spotter in the Altura area reported 50 mph winds and 3/8-inch hail at 3:40 p.m. A spotter in the Dover area reported winds of 38 mph and a half inch of rainfall a short time later.
Storms are expected to continue the rest of the week, with flash flood watches in effect in parts of Dodge, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties. A few storms might produce winds of 40 mph to 45 mph, with small hail.