Weak EF-0 tornado damages fairgrounds days before Cottonwood Co. Fair

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Strong weekend storms left behind some damage in Cottonwood County just days before the county fair. 

Some of the storms, including a very weak, brief, EF-0 tornado were specifically in Windom, which is about two and a half hours southwest of the Twin Cities and home to the county’s beloved fair.

While some were worried the damage would delay Tuesday’s start to the fair, organizers say the show will go on.

The director of Cottonwood County’s Emergency Management says this is the first time weather this severe has hit Windom in recent memory.

“This half of the children’s barn folded up and was laying on the other side,” said Mike Hanson, of the Cottonwood County Fair Board.

Looking at the state of the fairgrounds after two days of cleanup, it looks like the fair will ultimately weather the storm.

“I wasn’t here, but it isn’t an experience you want to go through especially a few days before a fair,” Hanson said.

A severe storm rocked Windom Saturday, ripping half the roof off the children’s barn, blowing the doors off a couple of others and causing some damage to the hog barn.

Elsewhere in town, the winds flipped a camper, knocked down several trees and damaged a can collection bin, but luckily nobody was hurt and there wasn’t any serious damage.

“[The storm’s path] was only about 100 feet wide or so,” said Paul Johnson, the Cottonwood County Emergency Management Director. “It was really weird there was one yard where there are tons of branches and sticks and the next one where nothing was touched.”

After racing to clear debris and have a building inspector make sure all the structures are safe for the public, organizers say the fair will begin on Wednesday as planned.

City leaders say this is the fourth natural disaster residents have dealt with in the last year or so, including two floods and a storm with straight-line winds just last month.

“It wasn’t as bad as we thought, so I’m thankful for that,” Hanson said. “Glad it happened last weekend than coming during the fair, because if it happened during the fair, it would’ve been a whole lot worse.”

In the end, organizers say fairgoers will still get to have a blue ribbon experience.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, but having been through it, it appears we made it,” Hanson said.

Now that the cleanup is over, it will be move-in day at the fairgrounds tomorrow with the fair opening on Wednesday.