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Torrential rains, damaging winds hit Minnesota

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Heavy weather brought torrential rains, damaging winds and large hail to a broad swath of Minnesota on Thursday, and interrupted flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The airport suspended departures a little before 6 p.m., but airport spokesman Pat Hogan said some landings were still being allowed.

Hogan said the system was disrupted by poor visibility even before the worst weather hit, causing flight delays of as much as 2 1/2 hours. Travelers were warned to expect significant delays through the evening, even after departures resumed, he said.

Downtown Minneapolis turned dark as night as the severe thunderstorms moved through the Twin Cities during the evening rush hour, snarling traffic, flooding streets and stalling some cars. The National Weather Service reported a "geyser" shooting up to 25 feet high out of one Minneapolis storm sewer.

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There were several reports of funnel clouds being spotted across the metro area and elsewhere in path of the storms, and tornado sirens sounded in several communities, but there were no confirmed tornado touchdowns or any reports of injuries.

More than 17,000 Xcel Energy customers lost power in the Twin Cities, primarily in the west metro area.

Large trees were toppled in Litchfield, Willmar, Crosslake, Pequot Lakes, Isanti, Mora, Pine City, Duluth and parts of the Twin Cities area, including Golden Valley.

Four homes were struck by lighting in Stearns County in central Minnesota, Sheriff John Sanner said. At least one of those homes, near Sauk Centre, sustained extensive smoke damage.

About 11,000 Lake Country Power customers in the Duluth area lost power.

More than 2,100 people lost power in Stearns County, particularly in the Brooten area, Xcel Energy said. A National Weather Service spotter reported 4.85 inches of rain between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. just north of Sauk Centre.

As the storms tracked through west-central Minnesota earlier in the afternoon, one bus from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School sought safe shelter until the stormed passed. Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg kept three busloads of students at the school for about 30 minutes and two other buses for about an hour after an unconfirmed report of a tornado in the area, Superintendent Rod De Boer said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for all of northeastern Minnesota, an area that had already been soaked by heavy rains Tuesday. Downed power lines and lightning strikes sparked some fires in the northeast, where thousands of Lake Country Power customers were without electricity by mid-afternoon.

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