While most of the country was celebrating Memorial Day with picnics and parades, people in two states were fighting to stay alive.
A town official says a 2-year-old child has died and 20 are missing after a severe storm swept through a St. Paul suburb.
In Iowa a twister damaged over 400 homes, 200 homes were completely destroyed. Six were killed. Experts are calling this tornado season, with 100 people killed, one of the worst in a decade.
In Minnesota, Hugo Fire Chief Jim Compton said that with one child dead, another remains in critical condition and was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Another eight people were taken to area hospitals with injuries.
Hugo City Administrator Mike Ericson says at least one dozen homes were destroyed and another three dozen damaged.
Residents reported a tornado touching down in the area, but that has not been confirmed by the National Weather Service.
“It’s horrible,” Ericson said. “The citizens are very shook and scared.”
Dozens of emergency crews descended on the town to look for those who have not been located and assess the damage. About 15,500 customers in the northeast metro area were without power, Xcel Energy Company said.
Hugo Public Works Director Chris Petree said his family took shelter in the basement before the storm lifted his house off the ground and completely wiped out the second floor of the home.
“I put my daughter down first, my wife on top of her and then I bear-hugged on top of them,” Petree said.
The storm system started northwest of the Twin Cities and quickly spread across the north metro area from Albertville through Coon Rapids and Hugo to the northeast. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Coon Rapids, downing power lines and uprooting trees.
The most damaging effects of the storm system came from large hail, ranging from nickel-sized to baseball-sized as it pelted Monticello, Maple Lake and Albertville, where some windows in houses and car windshields were shattered.
Almost 800 were powerless in the St. Cloud-Monticello area as well, Xcel said.
Hugo appeared to be the hardest hit, with residents saying a tornado touched down near the city’s downtown late Sunday afternoon. They reported large hail, high winds and torrential rains as the system blew through the town.
As he huddled in his basement against a foundation wall with his wife and 21/2-year-old daughter, Petree said they heard the thunderous sound of their house coming off the ground.
“All you hear is glass breaking and wood tearing and breaking in half,” Petree said.
In Iowa, in addition to the six people killed in Parkersburg and New Hartford, 70 people were injured. Two of those injured remain in critical condition.
In the small town of Parkersburg, 21 businesses were destroyed. The local high school, city hall and the town’s only grocery store and gas station are also gone.
City officials say that the warning signals were heeded and without that system even more people would have been injured.
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