March 6 storm in Zimmerman, Minnesota. Photo by Janel Heath.
ZIMMERMAN, Minn. (KMSP) - People across Minnesota are cleaning up after the earliest tornados in state history touched down Monday evening near Zimmerman and Clarks Grove. The previous record for earliest verified tornado in Minnesota occurred was March 18, 1968, north of Truman. Get the Fox 9 Weather App to track the storm timing and impact, specific to your location.
Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down near Zimmerman at 5:36 p.m. The tornado was on the ground for 8.9 miles, reaching the Princeton area by 5:49 p.m. Later Tuesday afternoon, NWS confirmed the damage in Clarks Grove was also caused by a tornado.
Avoid Clarks Grove
Freeborn County emergency management director Kurt Freitag told Fox 9 several buildings on the main street were hit.
“As a result of the storm, numerous structures have been damaged and quite a few trees have been toppled over or branches knocked off. Power lines are down. The whole town is without power right now,” Freitag said. "A fertilizer plant and a hardware store in town sustained significant damage. Many buildings, including the fire department, had windows or doors blown in."
Freitag says it was too dark and too dangerous for people to try to come to Clarks Grove or Geneva to help Monday evening.
“It’s still not safe,” Freitag said. “We’re still trying to get power lines sorted out and tree branches off the roadway. Tomorrow would be a good time if you’re trying to help family or friends cleanup. Just wait until morning to do that.”
Tornado near Princeton 'sounded like a freight train'
Jenette Schiemo believes the tornado just missed her house as she took cover in her basement with her dog. But the strong winds tore siding off her pole barn and the roof off her shed, with her quarter horse still inside.
“I was in the kitchen, I was looking out my sliding glass door because I liked storms up until this night,” Schiemo said. “I thought they were cool to watch. I don' t think that anymore.”
The storm blew down plenty of trees and powerlines, leaving the area in the dark, but luckily none of the animals on her hobby farm were hurt.
"Just like they say, it sounded like a freight train coming through your house,” Schiemo said. “I got lucky because none of the trees fell on my house but my lean-to is a loss -- a complete loss -- but my animals are okay, so that's what you have insurance for."
The sun went down just after these storms hit, so many people are waking up Tuesday morning hoping to see little to no damage to their property.
Update from Sherburne County Sheriff
Numerous roads remain closed following last evening’s storm as county, township, and electrical crews continue cleanup and restoration efforts in the Orrock and Zimmerman areas of Sherburne County. Residential neighborhoods have been closed at County Road 15 at 253 ½ and 257th Avenues, and at 165th Street at 257th Avenue in the Ann Lake area of Orrock Township. Additionally, 290th Avenue has been closed at 138th and 142nd Streets on the north end of Big Elk Lake in Baldwin Township to allow crews clear access for repairs and tree removal.
Volunteers are not being sought at this time and the Sheriff’s Office is asking non-residents to avoid these areas in an effort to keep roadways clear. Dozens of homes suffered significant damage as a result of the storm, but no injuries were reported.
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