High winds cause havoc in Dakotas

BY LARA BRICKER | MAYVILLE, ND | August 10, 2001

"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

like this."

-- Henry Brier also contributed to this story.

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