Updated: Tornado Hits Fridley

Structural damage to businesses and homes but no one hurt or killed.

UPDATED (6 p.m.): Homes and businesses in several areas of Fridley suffered structural damage Sunday when a tornadic storm system swept through the city shortly after 2 p.m.

No one was hurt or killed, according to Fridley Police Lt. Mike Monsrud. 

Much of the structural damage was in an area bounded by 49th and 53rd avenues and Main Street and University Avenue, Monsrud said. 

Residents in the area gathered in the streets soon after the storm ripped through, assessing damage, taking photos and exchanging stories. Some seemed stunned; others quickly set about clearing downed trees or repairing roofs. 

The storm hit several commercial and industrial areas as well, with roofs blown off at a building at BAE Systems and another at a machine shop in the 5100 block of Main Street. A half-dozen rail cars were on their side in the BNSF rail yard, and a General Mills building nearby had damage high on an exterior wall. The forested Minneapolis Water Works property along East River Road appeared to have lost many trees and parts of trees. 

Another area of damage were the neighborhoods immediately to the south and north of I-694, between Hwy. 65 and University Avenue. A section of freeway wall near Seventh Street toppled (as were smaller fences all around Fridley), and two houses north of the freeway lost roofs. 

The city activated its emergency operations center (for the first time since a test run last summer) in a Medtronic parking lot west of Hwy. 65. A Salvation Army truck was on hand at Medtronic's Rice Creek campus to provide food and water, Monsrud said. 

Throught coordinated efforts of police, fire, public works and community development staff, Fridley city government will try to: 

  • Secure areas where damage occurred
  • Make sure neighborhoods are safe
  • Make sure downed power lines are not live
  • Make sure there are no gas leaks
  • Go house to house to ensure no one is trapped or injured
  • Inspect damaged structures to evaluate safety

Monsrud said city officials are "hopeful" they can get most of that done before nightfall, but may bring out lights after dark to continue work in the most heavily damaged areas. 

Hughes Avenue Hit Hard
The 5000 bock of Hughes Avene NE was hit hard, with huge trees lying across the road and onto several houses.

Kelli Zych was philosophical about the loss of her front-yard tree, now on it side, sticking into the street: another tree had crushed a part of her next-door neighbors' roof.  

Residents surveyed the damage in their neighborhood on foot, offering quick evaluations of the situation: "Crazy!" "It's like Armageddon!" "Oh, Lord."

East of University Avenue
The damage was less widespread but just as stunning in places east of University Avenue and north of I-694. Two houses within a block of each other on Fifth Street NE had lost their roofs: a single-story home that was already covered with tarp within 90 minutes of the storm, and a taller multi-family building with rafters still exposed. Insulation hung on trees and fences throughout the area, which also saw many trees down. 

Allen Jenkins, who lives on Seventh Street, took shelter in the SuperAmerica on University Avenue, where he said he was "kind of fearful." The lights went out in the store; crying babies were taken to a storm shelter in the back, he said. 

Froilan Velez stood with his family in front of their house south of the freeway. When they emerged from their basement after the storm passed they had a "big surprise," he said: a downed tree had just missed their house and was blocking their front door. 

Nearby, a tree hung into the street, suspended by a cable from the power lines above. In another direction, the sound of power saws indicated residents were getting cleanup underway. 

Manufactured-home Parks
Other areas of Fridley felt the effects of the storm too. About a half dozen homes in the Park Plaza Co-op manufactured-home park suffered damage, according to Natividad Seefeld, president of the co-op's board. Trees landed on homes and a vehicle. A trampoline blew into a truck and broke its window.

Park Plaza has two shelters: one that fits about 70 people and another that is a rented (non-manufactured) home, but residents weren't able to reach the property manager to access it. 

Earlier (2:30 p.m.): The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for an area including Fridley through 3 p.m. An NWS radio announcement said law enforcement reported a tornado at I-694 and the Mississippi River. Take cover and get low.

From scanner reports: A business at 5170 Main St. had its roof blown off; the caller smells natural gas. Heavy damage in the area. Numerous trees are down. At 5537 Fifth St. a roof blew off a four-plex. Police are checking for injuries. The city's emergency operations center has been activated. Fridley is asking for mutual aid from neighboring communities.

Sheila Regan and Liala Helal contributed to the reporting and posting of this article. 

See more recent posts about the tornado's aftermath:

(blog post)

Fridley Tornado: ‘The Neighborhood Will Never Look The Same’
Document: Fridley Tornado Cleanup Plan

Chris Steller (Editor) May 23, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Thanks to PK for adding to the tornado-damage photo gallery!


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