All the old timers I know can't remember a thunderstorm that came through like this.
Maj. Keith Bailey, Grand Forks Salvation Army
Mayville resident Gary Kaldor received a call from his brother at 2
a.m. Wednesday morning that made his heart sink: The 53-foot high
steeple atop his town's Aal Lutheran Church had been ripped from its
perch on the church by the hurricane force winds of a storm tearing
through the area.
Kaldor's great-great grandfather's brothers built both the church and
the steeple in 1880. Locals believe it is the oldest church in North
Dakota. "You don't believe it can be because it's been there so
long," Kaldor said Friday of losing the steeple. "We're a small
congregation and we think it's a part of our church."
The 50 members of the Aal Lutheran Church -- which was named after a
church in Norway where many of the area families descendants
originated -- are meeting Sunday to decide how to repair the pride of
their church. "We've already had some people who aren't even members
donate to a fund that hasn't even been established," Kaldor said
referring to the outpouring of community support.
Mayville was spared most of the damage from storms that caused
massive damage across North Dakota from early Wednesday morning
through early Thursday morning. The storms, which produced hail in
areas, packed 110 mph winds while tearing through Mayville's
neighboring town of Hillsboro at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. The
severe storms struck again Wednesday night in Grand Forks, which is
north of Hillsboro and Mayville. "The storms were relatively short
lived but pretty violent in terms of wind," said Harold Narum, deputy
director of the North Dakota Division of Emergency Management.
The winds came in an 18-mile-wide swath that started about 50 miles
west of Hillsboro and moved northwest. Disaster declarations have
been issued in Barnes, Benson, Traill and Grand Forks counties, as
well as the cities of Hillsboro, Grand Forks and Gilby, Narum said.
Hillsboro's biggest casualty from the storms were 2,400 trees that
were destroyed by the storm, according to the North Dakota Division
of Emergency Management. Power in Hillsboro was knocked out after 23
miles of power lines were taken down by trees and wind.
Crews from both the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross
responded to Hillsboro early Wednesday morning to provide food for
those without power and to emergency officials. Steven Jacobson, a
spokesperson for the Red Cross in Grand Forks, said the Red Cross is
only aware of a handful of Hillsboro residents whose homes were made
unlivable by the storm.
As volunteers from the Salvation Army in Grand Forks were leaving
Hillsboro Wednesday evening and driving the 40 miles home they were
caught in the next round of storms, this time centered over Grand
Forks. "It was unbelievable, we were looking for a tornado, " said
Major Keith Bailey, of the Grand Forks Salvation Army. "The whole
storm just blew up over Grand Forks. You're just watching large tree
branches fly by your window."
The storm Wednesday night in Grand Forks caused power outages to
about 11,000 residents and many were still without power Friday
night. Wind speeds of 114 mph were recorded at the Grand Forks Air
Force Base, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.
Almost two-inches of rain fell in the downtown area within 20 minutes.
Ten homes, one apartment building and one business were damaged to
the point that they are unlivable. The Salvation Army and Red Cross
had served 1,700 meals by Friday night, Bailey said. They expect to
continue through next week as many residents lost all of their
refrigerated food when the power went out.
Volunteers from both organizations were wiped out by Friday night
after working straight since the wee hours of Wednesday. "I am just a
bit tired," Jacobson said.
Bailey is still stunned at how quickly the storm hit Grand Forks
when it sped up from 25 mph to 60 mph. "You never want to see anything
like we did, it's the worst one I've seen in my life," he said. "All
the old timers I know can't remember a thunderstorm that came through
-- Henry Brier also contributed to this story.
More links on Storms