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Explosion rocks tiny MN town

Lake Wilson's 300 residents had to clean up after a propane explosion caused several million dollars in damage to their southwestern Minnesota town.

BY SUSAN KIM | LAKE WILSON, Minn. | January 14, 2004

Lake Wilson's 300 residents were still cleaning up Wednesday after a propane explosion Monday night caused several million dollars in damage to their southwestern Minnesota town.

The blast occurred in the town's fire hall about 11:15 Monday night. The worst damage was to downtown buildings, including besides the fire hall a bank, a post office, a grocery store and an American Legion Hall.

Houses in a five-block area were damaged as well when the explosion shattered windows; ripped off shingles; and shook roofs, walls and foundations.

The blast was heard by people up to 25 miles away, and debris from damaged buildings was thrown as far as 800 feet.

Miraculously, no one was killed, said the Rev. Jon Skaar, pastor at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross both responded, helping to meet people's emergency needs.

"I'd say three to four homes are badly damaged," said Skaar, but he said that many more homes had window damage.

The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, which is one block away from the fire hall, lost lots of windows, said Skaar, and the church has cracks in its plaster walls as well.

The parsonage which is two blocks away also had window damage. "Windows in the parsonage were literally pulled out," he said.

"We are waiting on insurance and on structural engineers," said Skaar.

Many residents were waiting for an okay by structural engineers before returing to their businesses or homes.

Already, town officials were expressing concern that small business owners in the town would not be financially able to rebuild, and that the resulting economic toll on the small town would be significant.

Fire investigators said they couldn't yet tell what had ignited the propane.

Power was off for much of the day Tuesday but was largely restored by Wednesday morning.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty visited the town Tuesday.

Lake Wilson, some 140 miles southwest of Minneapolis, is no stranger to disasters the town was hit by a tornado in 1992 and by a severe ice storm in 1996.


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