Straight-line wind speeds could have reached 90 to 100 mph
FARGO - The storms that ripped through the Fargo-Moorhead area Monday night carried winds just shy of hurricane force, with possibly a small tornado or two thrown in for good measure.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Ritterling said the strongest wind gust reported at Fargo's Hector International Airport was 72 mph, but based on roof damage in Fargo, wind speeds could have reached 90 to 100 mph.
Most damage was caused by straight-line winds, but it's possible there were smaller embedded tornadoes in the storm, Ritterling said, adding officials won't know for sure until they assess the damage.
"We did hear a lot of funnel cloud reports," she said.
Weather service officials traveled to Fargo on Tuesday to look over the storm damage and to prepare for a workshop today at North Dakota State University.
Weather service officials will talk with area emergency managers and media representatives about how the public perceives warnings.
A major goal of the workshop is to find ways to craft more effective flood warnings, according to the weather service.
Even after an hour and a half of lugging severed tree branches to the curb, Casey Asche wasn't finished clearing his yard of debris in the aftermath of the Memorial Day storm.
The 31-year-old air traffic controller happens to have Tuesdays off, so he was among the few residents in West Fargo clearing their yards by late Tuesday morning.
Dozens of other homes either already had a mangled pile of branches set by the curb or still had assorted debris strewn about their property.
The various tree branches in Asche's yard off Seventh Avenue West ranged from small twigs to a giant tree branch snagged on a power line.
Asche and his wife moved in to their home in January and had planned to eventually remove a couple of dead trees from their property.
But the extreme winds in Monday's storm took care of that, Asche said.
"It was pretty crazy," he said. "That's the first time in a long time I thought, 'Wow, this is serious.' "
Most of the wind damage in West Fargo hit the older residential areas east and west of Sheyenne Street - which is also where many of the city's oldest and largest trees are.
The wind damage appeared minor and sporadic south of Interstate 94.
Winds had warped and snapped some of the fencing surrounding the Eagle Run subdivision, and among the homes, several garbage cans were astray and portable basketball hoops were knocked over.
The past few months have been rough on Gary Litt's house at 430 5th St. S.
Ice dams caused about $8,000 in damage this past winter. On Monday night, an ash tree fell on the peak of Litt's roof, a thick two-forked branch managing to gouge holes on both slopes before sliding down the side of the two-story home.
"If it starts raining hard, it's going to be a mess up there," Litt said.
One of the punctures in the roof is directly above a bathroom just remodeled for about $10,000. The storm also caved in a new roof on his greenhouse.
"Why did it have to be me?" Litt asked Tuesday.
While Litt is on an unlucky streak, tree damage in Moorhead was widespread. Leaves and limbs littered many streets, a mess the city's Forestry Department and Moorhead Public Service were working to clear. Piles of debris were stacked on curbsides.
One of the largest felled trees came down by Superfrog Signs & Graphics near Moorhead High School. It was a 4-foot-wide cottonwood that missed the company's truck parked nearby.
"We got lucky," said Justin Nelson, a sales representative at Superfrog.
It wasn't just trees damaged. Any relatively light object, like the bus shelter and bench at 11th Street and Second Street South, was vulnerable to being overturned by high winds.
Dan Thompson at Ole's Nursery and Landscaping on Highway 10 said two fallen electric poles cut off service to businesses in the area until 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Though Ole's didn't have any electricity, he opened the store as usual at 8 a.m.
"There were still people looking around in the dark," Thompson said.
The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton School District canceled classes Tuesday because of a power outage that affected the district's technology services, Superintendent Randy Bruer said.
He said district officials decided students will not have to make up the day and school will let out for the summer today as planned.
Thomas Ahlin had been looking for a solution to rid his tall pine tree of turkey vultures.
Monday night's storm that uprooted the pine tree and three others in his yard was not what he had in mind.
"This is a sad way to end their existence of roosting in our tree," said Ahlin, who lives at 720 11th Ave. S.
The tree, which was the tallest in the neighborhood, was on its side Tuesday with roots that stuck up taller than Ahlin.
"I think our house is OK, so that was good," Ahlin said.
Toppled trees were a common sight throughout south Fargo, including the corner of Fourth Street and Ninth Avenue South where an ash tree fell on Lowann and Wayne Krueger's two-story home.
The family was in the basement during the storm but didn't hear the tree fall. Son Taylor Krueger, 17, was one of the first to see the tree.
"I was just thinking, 'My dad's not going to believe this,' " Taylor said, as he looked at a section of sidewalk lifted by the tree. "I'm standing here and I don't even believe it right now."
The family wasn't sure of the extent of the damage on the house, but it did cause some holes in the roof.
Crews worked Tuesday in the Osgood neighborhood to patch holes in the roofs of some apartment complexes, including one at 5031 44th Ave. S.
The storm downed sections of fence throughout south Fargo.
Winds took out a section of fence at the Fargo Park District's Rheault Farm, but the biggest district loss was a number of trees in the parks, said Executive Director Roger Gress.
Parks crews will work over the next week or two to clean up downed branches and fallen trees in Lindenwood, Island Park, Oak Grove and Edgewood, Gress said.
The Hornbacher's Express store on South University Drive reopened at 4 p.m. Tuesday after being without power for more than 14 hours.
Gene Schneeberger, store director, said the generator doesn't power all the coolers, so some frozen food, dairy and meat had to be thrown away.
The store had a freezer truck and two medium-temperature trucks to save some food, but it had to be loaded by hand because the lift is also powered by electricity.
"It's going to take a couple days to replenish some of our stuff," Schneeberger said.
Members of North Dakota State University's rugby team were trying a new kind of turnover Tuesday morning.
Winds picked up the club's field shed Monday night and tipped it upside down on top of a pine tree, impaling the roof, said Cory Schlack, NDSU senior and rugby coach.
Three teammates worked Tuesday to right the structure, but it's going to be a couple of days of work to repair the structure, he said.
Spray-paint cans used to mark the field also exploded during the storm, coating much of the team's equipment, Schlack said.
"It was a mess," he said.
That was a sentiment shared by many north Fargo residents as the sounds of chainsaws and electrical generators buzzed throughout the day.
Ken Treickel spent part of the morning assessing damage at his South Terrace home near Oak Grove Lutheran School.
Treickel's phone line dangled from a tree in his front yard, where winds took part of the siding off his house.
A generator worked to keep his freezer and refrigerator running, but Treickel said he didn't expect electricity again anytime soon.
"I'm afraid it will be quite a while till we get power back," he said.
Farther north in the Woodcrest neighborhood, Chuck Flach used a chainsaw to break down a fallen tree in his brother's backyard. Earlier in the day Flach removed branches from the top of his pickup.
Tree debris littered the boulevards along most streets, and traffic moved at a crawl at times throughout the morning as traffic lights remained without power.
Four city crews were already out with wood chippers Tuesday morning, but complete cleanup is going to take about two weeks, said Randy Heiraas, head of one of the four chipping crews.
"To get it back to how it was before the storm is going to take a while," he said.