HARTLAND, Minn. (FOX 9) - A line of severe storms brought high winds, severe weather and at least three tornadoes to Minnesota and western Wisconsin Wednesday night. At least one person was killed as a result of the storms.
After hitting a record high temperature Wednesday afternoon, temperatures dropped overnight causing officials to warn drivers about snow melt and rain freezing on roadways for the Thursday morning commute. So far, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s traffic map has not shown any significant problems in the metro, although high winds and blowing snow are causing some visibility issues in the southwestern part of the state.
Over 75 school districts were closed Thursday or delayed two hours due to the inclement weather. A full list of school closings can be found here.
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NWS confirms at least 3 tornadoes in Minnesota, Wisconsin
The National Weather Service office in La Crosse, Wisconsin has determined at least two tornadoes occurred during Wednesday's storm.
An EF0 tornado occurred near Lewiston, Minnesota and an EF2 tornado was confirmed north of Neillsville, Wisconsin, about 50 miles east of Eau Claire, according to NWS.
The NWS office in the Twin Cities confirmed a tornado in Hartland, Minnesota after crews surveyed the damage Thursday.
NWS survey crews are working to confirm whether any additional tornadoes occurred elsewhere in the two states.
1st December tornado in Minnesota
Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed Minnesota's first tornado to occur during the month of December in Hartland, just northwest of Albert Lea in southern Minnesota. Survey crews are still working to determine rating/strength, path length and path width. NWS says more information will be released Thursday evening.
The storm damaged a bank, sending parts of the brick roof to the ground. Homes and other buildings in the area were also damaged.
The latest tornado on record in Minnesota had been on November 16, 1931, east of Maple Plain.
Reported tornado in Plainview
Around 8:19 p.m., the National Weather Service reported a tornado in Plainview, Minnesota, northeast of Rochester and not far from the state border with Wisconsin.
Damage, possible tornado in Stanley, Wisconsin
NWS is also investigating a possible tornado in Stanley, Wisconsin, a town of about 4,000 about 35 miles east of Eau Claire.
A possible tornado caused damage in Stanely, WI (Stanley PD)
The Stanley Police Department said as about 75% of the town is without power as of Thursday morning. They also ask that residents stay in their homes and do not go out to look at the damage because there are numerous power lines down that may cause injuries.
Man killed by falling tree near Rochester
A 65-year-old man was killed by a falling tree in Haverhill Township near Rochester, according to Lt. Lee Rossman of the Olmstead County Sheriff’s Office. He was outside smoking a cigarette when the tornado sirens went off, witnesses said. The tree fell on the man and his pickup truck
The victim was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Powerful wind gusts overnight
The severe line of storms in southern Minnesota from Rochester to Fairmont brought wind gusts of over 70 mph. A strong burst of wind with brief heavy snow hit along the Minnesota River in Redwood Falls, which recorded a peak wind gust of 78 mph.
Peak wind gusts on Wednesday, Dec. 16. (FOX 9)
In Red Wing, a video from Bill Hanisch shows an awning being snapped off a building downtown. A witness in Hartland said strong winds pushed through the area, knocking down trees before hitting the bank.
The high winds downed trees and power lines, leaving thousands of customers without power Wednesday night.
Record high December temperature
The tornadoes fall on the same day the Twin Cities broke a record high temperature for December, hitting 52 at MSP Airport at 2 p.m. and continuing to climb into the late afternoon and evening. That breaks the record of 51 set in 2014. Snowpack at the airport dropped from 8 inches to just a trace over the course of the day.