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Emma Murray, Published July 12 2011

Communities face months of cleanup after weekend storm

OAKES, N.D. – Cleanup is ongoing here after Sunday night’s storm, which included 81-mph winds that caused a 10,000-gallon diesel spill near here.

“It’s just a mess,” Charles Russell, Dickey County director of emergency services, said Monday. “The (agricultural) damage alone is in the millions – elevators, grain bins, personal farm equipment.”

The diesel came from two of three 5,000-gallon, free-standing diesel tanks in the area.

Russell said straight-line winds ruptured the piping of one tank and toppled the two other tanks into a field nearby.

“The cleanup is ongoing under the guidance of the Department of Health and the fuel owner,” Russell said. “The main thing is keeping it out of the waterways.”

Beyond the three damaged diesel tanks, Dickey, Richland and Sargent counties in the southeastern region of the state all received damage from the straight-line winds.

Power lines across the region were knocked over due to the high winds, and more than 2,500 Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative customers were without power.

Late Monday afternoon, Dakota Valley crews were working alongside linemen from Northern Plains Electric and Legacy Contractors to restore power to the remaining 150 members without power. Some in the areas of Forman and Oakes may not see power restored until this evening.

In Sargent County, the town of Forman had 70 mph winds that caused major infrastructure damage. The town reported a barn and four grain bins being blown off their foundations, a pole barn lost its roof, and several trees were uprooted.

Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper said the storm’s winds were some of the strongest he had ever experienced.

“There were no injuries, and we’re thankful for that,” Paeper said.

In Richland County, the town of Wyndmere took the brunt of Sunday’s storm, with 70 mph winds leaving a trail of about 300 damaged trees, said Brett Lambrecht, emergency services manager.

All Richland County customers were expected to have restored power by nightfall Monday, but isolated areas south of Forman and Geneseo in Sargent County may be out of power until today, Dakota Valley Representative Craig Rysavy said in a press release.

Forman and Wyndmere led North Dakota with total 24-hour rainfall amounts, with Forman at 2.22 inches and Wyndmere at 1.55 inches of precipitation between Sunday and Monday mornings.

In Minnesota, Campbell in Wilkin County reported 3.25 inches, West Battle Lake-Clitherall in Otter Tail County had 2.25 inches, and Underwood, also in Otter Tail County, had 1.7 inches.

Although no tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service yet, there were several reports of sightings in McIntosh and Dickey counties, as well as a funnel cloud sighting in Sargent County.

Oakes saw some of the strongest straight-line winds, clocking in at around 81 mph, said Mark Ewens, data manager at the Grand Forks branch of the National Weather Service. Those winds led to serious damage.

“The straight-line winds peeled whole and partial roofs off houses, and commercial storage bins and lockers were just shattered,” Russell said.

Currently, Oakes and towns across the region are focusing on cleaning up, repairing homes and getting the town’s power back up. Russell says the damage caused by Sunday’s storm will take months to clean up.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emma Murray at (701) 241-5480