F3 tornado strikes southern Le Sueur County

Jay Schneider, Lake Region Life/Elysian Enterprise

Devastation, recovery and thankfulness are the words on the tongues of hundreds of residents in Nicollet and southern Le Sueur counties following the storm Thursday night, Aug. 24, which steamrolled through the two counties.

According to the National Weather Service the storm, which was listed as an F3 (158 to 206 miles per hour), was only the second tornado of this size to strike Le Sueur County since 1950.

The last one that hit this county was in March of 1998, a storm which demolished much of the City of St. Peter, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and the death of a young boy.

Dozens of people were injured and there was extensive crop damage and livestock loss in last week's storm, and one fatality.

Ninety-year-old Thomas O'Brien, who lived near Lake Emily where the major portion of the storm in Le Sueur County started, was apparently hit by a falling tree or hit by his home.

An individual took O'Brien by boat across Lake Emily, where an ambulance picked him up and took him to Immanuel St. Joseph's Hospital in Mankato, where he later died.

More than 100 structures were damaged and according to Le Sueur County officials, agricultural losses could total more than $20 million.

There was not only dead cattle, but crops were knocked down or completely uprooted. Many of the crops adjacent to where the tornado's path flattened crops, were also littered with debris, which will make it nearly impossible for machinery to get through the fields and harvest.

Thursday's storm, which was determined to have travelled nearly 20 miles, started just west of St. Peter and rolled through Nicollet, Kasota, Lake Emily and just south of Cleveland.

The huge path of this storm and the length of time it stayed together was not typical of a regular storm.

National Weather Service meteorologist Karen Trammell said the wide twister stayed together for at least 20 miles. The collision of warm, moist air from the south combined with winds from the north, producing clouds that made the storm long-lasting and very ferocious.

The storm started losing its power just northwest of Waterville and disappeared into the clouds just a couple of miles north of Waterville, west of State Highway 13.

There's a lot of devastation

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