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1A NEW Tornado hits north Austin

By Tim Ruzek

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

A tornado damaged homes, vehicles, power lines and parks along Austin’s north side Wednesday night, knocking out power for most of the community until early today.

Much of Austin, which was in complete darkness Wednesday night, regained power by about 5 a.m. today, Austin Police Chief Paul Philipp said. Major power lines from Austin Utilities’ power plant near Todd Park were damaged.

One man was injured during the storm while he was outside of the Windrift Restaurant & Lounge near Todd Park, but he was treated and released from the hospital with minor injuries, Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi said.

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The sheriff said she was aware of people at two residences being displaced by the storm, although a lot of homes were damaged.

Officials this morning are keeping an eye on the swollen, rising rivers, as the Austin area has been put under a flood watch and rains were falling this morning.

The storm clipped the northeast side of Austin and rolled toward the Rose Creek and Adams areas.

National Weather Service authorities reported one confirmed tornado in Austin and one near Grand Meadow, although several other unconfirmed tornados were reported.

Philipp, who was watching the activity, said he spotted possibly up to three tornadoes, starting with one near the U.S. 218 North railroad crossing.

Just south of that location, Philipp said, he recalled a "crazy experience" with his vehicle rocking back and forth while hail struck it.

"It was a pretty significant tornado from my perspective," Philipp said.

Dozens of trees were downed across northwest and northeast Austin, Mapleview and the adjacent areas of Lansing Township.

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Todd Park and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center — two of Austin’s largest park areas — appeared to have taken some of the most significant damage from the tornado activity, Police Chief Paul Philipp said at a news conference this morning. People at softball games at Todd Park and at a meeting at the nature center took shelter.

Philipp said the community is "fortunate" that the path of the tornado activity was not a heavily populated area of Austin.

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