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Houses on Big Pine Lake woke up this morning to find trees down and docks and pontoons flipped from last night's storm. Sam Benshoof/FOCUS

Updated: East Otter Tail County hit hard by storms, but no tornado

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Updated: East Otter Tail County hit hard by storms, but no tornado
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

UPDATED: The National Weather Service (NWS) has determined that a tornado struck Park Rapids during Monday night's severe storms, but not in the East Otter Tail area.

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According to Meteorologist Jim Kaiser, NWS officials were in the area on Tuesday investigating what could have been a brief tornado, but have determined that it was just high winds.

The overnight storms left trees and powerlines down throughout East Otter Tail County. Docks, boats and pontoons on Big Pine Lake, Rush Lake and others were flipped or damaged.

The National Weather Service estimates that winds in the area could have reached as high as 90 mph.

"Damage reports indicate winds anywhere between 60 and 80 mph - maybe even 90 mph," said Meteorologist Jim Kaiser. "That's based on pictures we've seen, not any sort of investigation."

Sharon Neuerburg, who has lived on Big Pine Lake for eight years, said that this is the first storm that she can remember that blew down trees.

A few houses down, Steve Askew was helping a neighbor move a tree that was down across the road. Askew thought that a storm about 10 years ago on Father's Day was the most comparable storm he could remember.

Next door, Jan and Mike Parta were helping a family member clean up trees and branches from the yard. The family's pontoon had been completely flipped in the lake.

As bad as it was, though, everyone seemed to agree that the damage could have been worse.

"We still have our houses," Askew said.

Crews were also busy along Highway 10 between Perham and New York Mills repairing damaged powerline poles. Even a railroad crossing along Highway 10 was affected by the high winds.

In Ottertail, high winds knocked down trees in town and in rural areas. The stretch of Hwy 78 between Ottertail and Perham was hit with flatline winds that tore off the roof of one large shed-like structure, uprooted large pine trees and caused damage to the volleyball area at Whiskey River Bar and Grill. Debris from Whiskey River was strewn about, with some large pieces discovered in a field across Hwy 78.

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