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Weather Service officials say Hubbard County was hit by three tornadoes

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Three tornadoes hit Hubbard County last Friday, the U.S. Weather Service confirmed Wednesday.

Aerial and ground surveys done this week by the NWS along with the state Department of Natural Resources "have identified three distinct tornado tracts," NWS said on its Grand Forks, N.D., office's Web site.

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Also, state Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, said she would work with residents to direct whatever resources may be needed to aid in recovery.

The most damaging tornado destroyed several homes and damaged many others near Emmavile along Pickerel Lake. NWS rated that tornado an EF3 on its Enhanced Fujita Scale, which goes from the weakest EF0 to strongest EF5.

An EF3 tornado is considered severe with wind speeds ranging from 136-165 mph.

"The longest tracks extend in a nearly continuous path from the south edge of Stocking Lake, about 1 mile east of Menahga, through the east edge of Park Rapids, to about 1 mile northwest of Emmaville," NWS said. "A third small track was detected by the DNR in southeast Hubbard County, about 4.5 miles south of Chamberlain."

NWS said the first tornado touched down near the south edge of Stocking Lake about 9:14 a.m. last Friday and crossed to the northwest end, growing to a width of about 150 yards.

It continued through the Jennie-O turkey farm which straddles the Wadena and Hubbard County line and expanded to its maximum width of 450 yards, with peak winds of 130 mph.

Eight turkey barns were destroyed and an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 turkeys were killed, NWS said. "Yellow polystyrene insulation from the turkey barns was spread as far as Lake George, 30 miles to the north."

NWS ranked that tornado EF2, calling it significant and with a wind speed of 111-135 mph.

The storm seemed decrease in intensity as it passed by Park Rapids, having lesser amounts of downed timber as it crossed state Highway 34 near its intersection with Hubbard County Road 4, NWS said. Some cars were either "driven or nudged" off the road, but no injuries were reported.

The parent storm developed the second tornado, the EF3 touchdown, about 9:37 a.m., likely brushing the west end of Big Sand Lake before curving slightly west of north, and crossing County Road 4 just northeast of Blue Lake, NWS said.

"The tornado grew wider and intensified as it approached Pickerel Lake from the south," NWS said.

"As it crossed the Point on Pickerel Lake, it reached its maximum width of 400 yards and peak wind speed of around 160 mph. Nearly all the trees on the Point were flattened in a variety of spiral patterns, while one trailer home, a camper, a garage, and a house were swept from their foundations and completely destroyed," NWS officials added.

A home at the north end of the lake had its roof torn off, furnishings yanked out and outer walls flexed northward, NWS said. The tornado diminished in width and intensity as it passed just west of Emmaville, but continued to topple trees.

A third tornado was confirmed by the DNR in southeast Hubbard County, where about three to four acres of trees in Section 22 of Badoura Township east of state Highway 87 were flattened in an interlacing pattern. Tree damage suggests peak winds of 100 mph, NWS said, with a maximum width of 30 yards for nearly a half mile.

NWS rated that tornado, which touched down about 10:44 a.m., an EF1, or moderate with wind speeds of 86-110 mph.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities who have been impacted by this tornado.," said Sailer, who accompanied Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Monday in viewing the tornado damage.

"The unusual nature of the storm left residents with little time to prepare or take cover, so we're all relieved that we had no loss of life or severe injuries as a result of the severe weather," she added.

Sailer said she drove through the affected area on Saturday and "it became clear how fortunate we were that the damage was not far greater. ... I was continually struck by the fact that so often the tornado hit trees nest to homes, yet miraculously missed the homes."

While the extent of the damage is still being assessed, "it's clear that we have some hard work and long days ahead of us to clean up and repair the damage," Sailer said.

"I'll continue to work with county and state officials to make sure that people affected by the storms have access to all available resources to help them get back to business and back to normal as quickly as possible," she added.

Sailer also commended local officials who reacted swiftly and professionally to respond, and to numerous volunteers and concerned neighbors who have come to help with clean-up efforts.

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