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Severe storms blamed for 3 deaths in South Dakota, Minnesota

  • THE ARGUS LEADER / AP / MAY 12
                                Mary Jane Mercer, Sylvie Whitesel, Ruby Putzke and Lucas Kauffman play on a massive fallen tree blocking a road in their neighborhood in Sioux Falls, S.D.

    THE ARGUS LEADER / AP / MAY 12

    Mary Jane Mercer, Sylvie Whitesel, Ruby Putzke and Lucas Kauffman play on a massive fallen tree blocking a road in their neighborhood in Sioux Falls, S.D.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. >> Strong winds and a tornado caused widespread damage in parts of the Midwest, where officials said another round of severe weather during a stormy week left three more people dead.

In Minnesota, a grain bin fell onto a car Thursday and killed a passenger near Blomkest, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office said. And a person died Thursday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as a result of severe weather, Mayor Paul TenHaken said, but details weren’t released.

Also in South Dakota, Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said Wendy Lape, 61, was traveling home to Wentworth with her husband in a vehicle about 5 p.m. Thursday when straight line-winds struck.

“The wall of dust and dirt and debris hit them. They slowed down to probably under 5 miles per hour because of the almost zero visibility from the blowing debris and a chunk of wood came through the window of the car,” Milstead said at a briefing in Sioux Falls Friday.

Lape died of her injuries Friday morning, officials said.

Earlier in the week, storms brought damaging winds, heavy rain and a few reports of tornadoes to Minnesota, where a storm-chasing meteorologist from Mexico City died Wednesday in a car crash — underscoring the dangers of pursuing severe weather. More storms were forecast for Friday from the Upper Great Lakes to the southern Great Plains that could bring damaging winds and hail.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued an emergency declaration and ordered state personnel and resources to affected communities. Noem said damage reports were received from 28 counties.

“We have had many storms before, but the amount of communities that are impacted right now we just haven’t seen in our state before,” Noem said at the briefing.

The Department of Public Safety’s Office of Emergency Management has opened an Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the response with local government authorities.

Winds gusted Thursday above 100 mph (161 kph) in parts of South Dakota. National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Heitkamp, in Sioux Falls, said Friday that a tornado formed around Castlewood, but elsewhere the damage was caused by the strong wind.

On Thursday, a nursing home in Salem, South Dakota, sustained extensive damage when part of the roof was torn off. Residents were evacuated. The storm knocked out power to thousands of customers, including the South Dakota State University campus in Brookings.

On Thursday night, Noem traveled to Castlewood, where a tornado ripped off the roof of a school and brought down walls.

Castlewood High School sophomore Erowyn Funge lives across the street from the school. She said that worst part of the storm lasted about 30 minutes, the Argus Leader reported.

“Our table went flying off our porch. It looked completely black outside,” said Funge.

Uprooted trees, branches and debris were scattered around Castlewood. Power lines were down, including across highways leading to town.

In Minnesota’s Stevens County, winds approaching 70 mph (113 kph) toppled grain silos and pushed down storage sheds near Alberta. The Minnesota State Patrol closed eastbound Interstate 94 for several hours Thursday night after overturned trucks blocked the freeway.

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