Aug
20
2009

Surprise storm damages downtown and South Minneapolis

Tree crushes fence in South Minneapolis: Southwest corner of Portland Ave. S. and East 43rd Street.
Tree crushes fence in South Minneapolis: Southwest corner of Portland Ave. S. and East 43rd Street.Courtesy Mark Ryan
An oddball surprise storm caught the city of Minneapolis and other parts of the Twin Cities metro area completely off guard yesterday. Clean-up crews were at work less than an hour after the storm: Looking down Portland Avenue toward downtown Minneapolis.
Clean-up crews were at work less than an hour after the storm: Looking down Portland Avenue toward downtown Minneapolis.Courtesy Mark Ryan
The National Weather Center was ambushed as well, and no warning of the tempest was issued. Wind-strewn trash bins litter Minneapolis alley.
Wind-strewn trash bins litter Minneapolis alley.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Nothing's been officially confirmed but Minneapolis residents reported sighting cloud rotation, tornadoes, and hearing the roar of wind as a storm swept through downtown and South Minneapolis. Storm-damaged house and trees in South Minneapolis: Northwest corner of Portland Avenue South and East 43rd Street in Minneapolis.
Storm-damaged house and trees in South Minneapolis: Northwest corner of Portland Avenue South and East 43rd Street in Minneapolis.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Hundreds of the city's trees were knocked down by the storm. I was at the Science Museum for a meeting when the warning sirens sounded so on the way home I drove into the affected area to see for myself. Crushed car in South Minneapolis
Crushed car in South MinneapolisCourtesy Mark Ryan
I just happened to have a pocket camera with me (I just bought it over the weekend) so I took some photos of the damage in one small area of South Minneapolis near the intersection of Portland Avenue South and East 43rd Street (I used to live near the neighborhood). Because the storm came on without any warning and much of it under the cover of heavy downpour, the weather service's usual storm spotters weren't in place to report on conditions or damage. Investigators are on site today to determine if the culprit was a small tornado (or tornadoes) or straight line winds. The last tornado to go through Minneapolis was back on June 14, 1981. I remember that one well.Another unfortunate victim of the freak Minneapolis storm
Another unfortunate victim of the freak Minneapolis stormCourtesy Mark Ryan

Minneapolis Star Tribune story
Associated Press story
More about tornadoes on Weather Wiz Kids

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Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

mdr's picture
mdr says:

Just as I was posting this story the National Weather Service confirmed that yesterday's storm that caused damage in Minneapolis was indeed a tornado. Here's the link to the story.

posted on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 2:25pm
SHINee003's picture
SHINee003 says:

wow I don't understand though, I heard that the possibility of a storm hitting a city was about like 11% a very low possibility and i was wondering if anyone could explain to all of us how this happened. Many thanks :O)

posted on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 3:40pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

well, 11% IS a relatively low percentage chance, but the essence of probability is that if there is ANY percentage of a chance that is A CHANCE. Hence, if the percentage were 0%, there would be no chance. And if there were 100% chance, there would definitely be a storm. The reason weatherpeople can't give you either of those figures if becuase they are not God and can't be completely sure one way or the other. Does that answer your question?

posted on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 3:55pm
JackU's picture
JackU says:

There were some links about the local Internets about the chance of a storm hitting a city. They sited a Scientific American story, but I don't have the link handy, that shows the reason that Tornadoes don't hit cities that often is that in the major Tornado areas the cities are a very small part of the terrain.

Just look at Minnesota. if we include Rochester, Mankato, St Cloud, Duluth and the Twin Cities as the Urban areas that's a very small percentage of the land mass of Minnesota that would give you a city getting hit by a Tornado.

posted on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 4:41pm
bryan kennedy's picture

This is one of those issues about which, I've heard two conflicting explanations. "The urban heat island prevents tornadoes from hitting cities." The urban heat island causes tornadoes to hit cities.

Neither is technically true, but tornadoes absolutely can strike major metropolitan areas. In this article on Meterology News, they state:

The myth that tornadoes are less likely to strike urban areas continues to remain pervasive, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

It is a common – and definitely false myth that tornadoes do not strike downtown areas. The odds are much lower due to the small areas covered, but paths can go anywhere – including over downtown areas. St. Louis, MO, for instance, has been struck 4 times in the last century.

Researchers at Purdue University reported that urban sprawl and a warmer climate likely contributed to the intensity of a tornado that ripped through downtown Atlanta in March 2008. Their models showed that while the city didn't suck the storm in or anything, the warmer land mass and the uneven landscape of the city did help to intensify the storm. It would be interesting to see some of the computer models that they applied to the Atlanta storm used in the Minneapolis area.

posted on Mon, 08/24/2009 - 1:18pm

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