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Dave Olson, Published May 14 2013

Brief but strong windstorms hit region

FARGO – A thunderstorm system carrying strong winds blew through the Fargo-Moorhead area about 7 a.m. Tuesday before moving on to the east.

About an hour earlier, the system blasted through Valley City, knocking over trees and power poles.

Several vehicles were knocked off Interstate 94 when a line of strong winds blew through Barnes County, including a semi and a pair of pickups that were pulling campers, said Andrea Suhr, a dispatcher with the sheriff’s department.

She said two brothers who were driving the pickups said they saw what appeared to be a large dirt storm approaching and pulled onto the shoulder of the road.

Suhr said they described winds strong enough to lift their vehicles off the ground. The drivers suspected a tornado may have been involved, but Suhr said there was no confirmation that a tornado may have played a role in the storm.

Suhr said the storm lasted only a short while but left many downed trees and power poles in Valley City.

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said he and another member of the sheriff’s department were traveling to Bismarck for a meeting early Tuesday morning when they noticed a large dust cloud heading for them.

“It looked like a black wall,” Laney said. He added that they were looking to pull over near Valley City when the wind swept by and buffeted their car like it was a pingpong ball.

The wind passed by quickly and in its wake they encountered a semi that had been blown over.

Laney said the driver told them the wind struck suddenly and he had no warning before his rig was blown onto its side.

The National Weather Service said winds up to 60 mph were associated with the storms Tuesday morning, which were caused by the arrival of a cold front.