Rare severe winter storm largely spares Dickinson County
Several power poles snapped during Wednesday's freak winter storm. The broken poles and debris had been cleared way and traffic restored as of Thursday morning. (Photo by Seth Boyes)
By Seth Boyes - News Editor
County emergency personnel said no injuries were reported during a fast moving storm system which crossed the county late Wednesday, bringing heavy winds behind it. Dickinson County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Ehret said local issues mainly consisted of damage to trees and branches as expected, but several power poles snapped southeast of Milford and high winds tore the roof off a home in that area. Ehret said such a storm is rare for the month of December.
"Nobody I know has experienced it before, and that includes people at the weather service," Ehret said.
The storm had been compared by some to the derecho which swept across large portions of central Iowa last year — Ehret said Thursday he wasn't sure the previous day's storm met the National Weather Service's definition of a derecho, but he said it was capable of similar damage. Ultimately, the National Weather Service referred to Wednesday's severe weather as a "serial derecho" passing from Kansas to Wisconsin. The weather service said 19 tornadoes were recorded across its path and 431 instances of severe wind were reported – at least 55 of them with speeds of more than 75 mph.
Local officials pushed a message of preemptive caution as the storm rapidly approached the Lakes Area from the west.
"The speed of these storms was 70-80 mph," Ehret said. "People tend to wait — they've got to see it before they take shelter — and in this case it would have been on you really quick. So we always encourage people to heed the warnings when they come out and go to shelter. Don't go look out the window and try to get that video you can post online — there's a million of those already. Just take shelter and keep yourself and everybody else safe."
Dickinson County was put under a tornado watch around 2 p.m. and a severe thunderstorm warning closer to 5 p.m. Ehret said the storm passed through Dickinson County around 5 p.m., and wind gusts of around 55 mph were reported near Superior around that time. Equipment at the Milford Fire Department's station measured speeds around 62 mph that day, according to Ehret, and Spirit Lake saw similar winds while gusts in Lake Park were estimated between 40 and 45 mph.
"It seemed like the eastern side of the county got hit a little harder with that severe weather than the western side," Ehret said.
No tornados or funnel-shaped clouds were reported Wednesday, Ehret said, but tornados were confirmed in Woodbury County as well as Plymouth County. The Kingsley-Pierson Community School District — which straddles the two counties — announced there would be no class on Thursday, and the Pierson facilities would be open for the public to use as a warming shelter while power was lost in the city of Pierson.
Ehret said power outages in Dickinson County were largely sporadic and generally addressed in short order. He said there were reports some outages may have persisted near Terril. Approximately six power poles had snapped along 260th Street halfway between Terril and Milford. Ehret said a tree had been pushed against a home in that area and another nearby home's attached garage had been blown off in the storm.
"Everything was pushed to the north — there was not signs of any twisting like you would see in a tornado — so I'm not sure what happened there, but there was a little strip that had some pretty decent damage," Ehert said.
The broken poles and other debris had been moved to the north side of the road as of Thursday morning and the roadway was clear for traffic, but power lines still hung low over the snapped pole stumps in the opposite ditch.
Ehret said he felt the county, for the most part, got through the storm relatively easily, and he was thankful there were no injuries as a result of the winter rarity.