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Anniversary storm

One year after Austin's damaging tornado, twisters caused one death Thursday night in Freeborn County along with extensive property damage there and other nearby counties.

Austin and Mower County, as of this morning, appeared to have escaped without serious damage from the severe storm. Exactly a year ago on Thursday, Austin experienced a tornado that tore through the city's northern areas.

Mower County's northwest corner experienced high winds Thursday that caused damage to trees but mainly just involved fallen branches, Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi said.

Amazi, along with five other deputies from her department, went Thursday night to eastern Freeborn County to assist law enforcement, including with checking on damaged homes to see if people were all right.

One person was killed on a farm west of Albert Lea, according to authorities. Two others were killed on northwestern Minnesota.


Amazi saw lot of destruction in Freeborn County, ranging from whole properties devastated to downed power lines.

"Access was very difficult," Amazi said, adding that the damage was sporadic.

Amazi was trying to get in contact with Freeborn County authorities this morning to see if they needed more assistance, including with traffic control. Amazi said she remembers what a "fiasco" traffic control was a year ago in the aftermath of Austin's twister.

Elaine Hansen, executive director of the Mower County Chapter of the American Cross, also was waiting this morning for any calls for help from neighboring agencies, such as in Albert Lea and Rochester.

"They know we have people ready," Hansen said.

Red Cross volunteers from around Mower County primarily reported tree damage from Thursday night's storm, Hansen said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz separately planned to visit Freeborn County today, along with other areas, to survey the damage.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost in the severe storms that swept across our state this evening," Pawlenty said in a news release Thursday night. "Our emergency management officials have been working closely with local officials and we stand ready to assist in every way needed. (Today) we will visit the areas hit hardest by these tornadoes to ensure that the response is swift and comprehensive."


According to media reports, reported pigs from the 2,500-head hog farm near Albert Lea were roaming around the area and a few carcasses were strewn about after the Thursday's violent weather. The TV station said the pigs were being taken away in trucks, with neighbors and farmers helping round them up.

Several other farms in the area also suffered damage and power lines and trees were down.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said Highway 251 between Clarks Grove and Hollandale in Freeborn County is closed because multiple power lines are down.

News reports indicate three people died as a result of the storm. In the northwest part of Minnesota, an elderly woman was killed in Almora, and a gas station owner was killed in Mentor. In southern Minnesota, one person was killed at a farm west of Albert Lea.

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