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1 girl killed, hundreds of homes damaged in Minn. storm

Monday, September 18, 2006

ROGERS, Minn. -- A tornado swept through this Minnesota town, killing a 10-year-old girl, damaging hundreds of homes and scattering debris across the city, officials said Sunday.

The girl was at a neighbor's house with her 19-year-old brother when it collapsed about 10 p.m. Saturday, police chief Keith Oldfather said.

"The roof is in the basement," Oldfather said after an aerial view of the damage Sunday morning. He said 200 to 300 homes were significantly damaged in Rogers, a town 26 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

"It's more severe than we thought," he said. "It just came out of nowhere and really did a lot of damage."

Six other people were injured, and two remained hospitalized Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service determined that the storm was an F2 tornado, with winds of 113 to 157 mph.

No tornado warning was issued for Rogers, but a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued, said Karen Trammell, a weather service meteorologist.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was expected to fly over later Sunday afternoon.

In Rogers, some blocks were devastated while others were hardly touched. Vehicles were crumpled by snapped trees and yards were littered with shingles and other debris. Garage doors were broken and roofs and siding peeled off. Residents covered holes in their houses with blue tarp as a light drizzle fell.

Many power lines were down and at one point Xcel Energy reported 10,000 customers without power.

When the storm hit, 10-year-old Jaymi Wendt was with her older brother, who was baby-sitting three other children.

One of the boys, 12-year-old Ryan Heibel, told the Star Tribune that everyone was on the first floor when suddenly there was a "huge boom." He couldn't see anything but felt a weight on him.

The boys' mother, Beth, could hear screaming and commotion when she listened to their voicemail messages on her cell phone.

The boys said they did not hear any warning sirens. Tim Turnbull, director of emergency preparedness for Hennepin County, said that sirens were activated in Rogers before the storm hit, but that people indoors may not have heard them because of the wind.

Rick Walz, whose house had severe roof damage, said the storm was over within minutes.

"It always happens to somebody else in Oklahoma, or wherever," he said. "You see it on TV, but until you stand in the middle of it, it's unbelievable."


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