SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A tornado moving through southeast South Dakota tore through Sioux Falls late Tuesday night, leaving a trail of damaged buildings, power lines and tress in its wake.
Thirty-seven structures collapsed or have structural integrity issues because of “tornadic activity” and winds greater than 100 mph, according to authorities. There were a few reports of injuries, but there were not any reported fatalities because of the storm.
A tornado warning was issued for Sioux Falls at 11:27 p.m. CT, said Todd Heitkamp, lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. NWS started to receive first confirmation calls of a tornado in south Sioux Falls at 10:38 p.m., he said.
A damage survey will be conducted Wednesday, which will confirm whether a tornado caused the damage, will help determine how many tornadoes touched down and how strong the system was going through Sioux Falls.
The majority of damage probably was caused by strong straight-line winds, Heitkamp said.
A tornado moving through the south section of Sioux Falls late at night when it’s dark is a “nightmare scenario” for Heitkamp. But each of the National Weather Service’s alert systems worked he said.
“This just shows you that the people of Sioux Falls, the people around the area, need to have multiple methods to get information,” he said.
Damage at Advanced Auto Parts in Sioux Falls a storm moved through the area on Tuesday night. (Photo: Abigail Dollins / Sioux Falls)
Some tornado sirens went off around the city, but not all went off, said Mayor Paul TenHaken, which did not follow the proper procedure.
Residents were advised not to travel so emergency responders could evaluate the damage.
“We have significant damage across our city from the storm,” said Mayor Paul TenHaken said. “Not only a lot of structural damage, a lot of impassable roads and a huge power outages. So, on my way coming down here, there are way too many people out here on the roads. You need to stay home. Please, please, please do not go out on the roads right now. It’s too dangerous without any lights, without any electricity and all the downed trees.”
According to Eric Paulie, a representative with Xcel Energy, as many as 25,000 customers were without power at one point because of the damage. About 8,500 customers are still without power as of 5:30 a.m. CT, with more than 200 outages reported.
The tornado touched down at 11:41 p.m. CT.
Damage reports were preliminary, but the NWS could confirm that some damage was caused by the tornado moving through Sioux Falls.
The tornado moved into Minnesota and Iowa, moving at 40 mph.
Crews responded to a handful of structure collapses and torn off roofs in Sioux Falls — some of them have been rescues for people trapped under the structural collapses. Downed powerlines and trees was preventing emergency responder traffic in much of south Sioux Falls, according to scanner traffic overnight.
Businesses in southern Sioux Falls damaged
The tornado ripped off part of the Avera Behavioral Health Hospital’s roof and caused significant damage to the building’s windows, said Avera spokeswoman Michelle Pellman.
“Seven Behavioral Health patients have been transferred to the Avera Heart Hospital,” Pellman said. “Only one patient suffered an injury and it was non-life threatening.”
The Avera Heart Hospital also experienced damage to its lobby and windows, but all patients are safe, Pellman said. She said people should stay away from the area because of flooding and debris concerns.
Several businesses were damaged as well, including a wall collapse at an Advanced Auto Parts.
Lincoln County Emergency Manager Harold Timmerman said he is not aware of any significant storm damage outside of Sioux Falls city limits, but further assessments would be done. Timmerman, the Minnehaha County emergency manager and the Sioux Falls emergency manager were all out of town during the tornado.
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