Two homes and a repair shop were destroyed after a violent EF4 tornado swept through Otter Tail County Wednesday, while six other homes and buildings suffered minor to little damage, according to a damage report released Friday by Otter Tail County.
According to the National Weather Service, peak winds were 170 miles per hour, with the tornado traveling a path of nine miles, with a maximum width of 650 yards, the county said in a news release.
The initial touchdown occurred 6.5 miles west of Ashby in Grant County and moved northeast until it lifted 5 miles east of Dalton in Otter Tail County, impacting St. Olaf and Tumuli townships. A Battle Lake man, Seth Nelson, died in the storm.
On Friday, Otter Tail County residents were pulling together in the aftermath of the storm. Deputies patrolled the area and public works crews cleaned up debris.
Otter Tail County Commissioner John Lindquist, who lives on a farmstead near Dalton, witnessed the tornado as it ripped through the area. “Responding to this emergency was a team effort,” he said. “We want to thank the Sheriff’s Office, all of the fire, EMS and volunteers that quickly jumped into action.”
Lindquist and other county staff visited families and properties to check on their well-being and offer county support. “We are neighbors. We are a tight knit community where everyone helps each other,” Lindquist said.
The County Assessor’s Office and Emergency Management Department finished a damage and impact assessment, and will be sharing a report with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The National Weather Service was also on the scene conducting a formal damage survey for its impact report.
Damage and response cost estimates are ongoing; the county would need to have more than $110,00 in damages to public infrastructure to qualify for a state disaster declaration, according to the news release.
Emergency Management Director Patrick Waletzko has been in frequent contact with local, regional and state partners, and officials from HSEM were on site Thursday to assist the county in getting the formal recovery process underway.
Residents can contact Waletzko at 218-998-8067 if they believe they were missed during the damage assessment or help is needed to clean up or other services. The Red Cross has also been partnering with the county and will provide support for residents as requested.
The National Weather Service toured the area Wednesday evening and again Thursday to determine the strength of the tornadoes and to identify the full extent of damage and debris. Crews were also able to use video and drones to determine the tornado’s path and intensity.
Video also confirmed the existence of a single tornado, where two were initially reported, and it was categorized by the NWS Friday morning as an EF4.