MINNEAPOLIS – At least one person died when a tornado hit Minneapolis on Sunday, damaging scores of homes, toppling hundreds of trees and leaving 18 people with minor injuries.
City spokeswoman Sara Dietrich said the death was confirmed by the Hennepin County medical examiner. She had no other immediate details.
Tornado warnings and watches had been issued Sunday evening throughout parts of the central U.S. In Missouri, authorities said a tornado hit a Joplin hospital and caused the roofs of two city fire stations to collapse. Jasper County Emergency Management Director Keith Stammer said a tornado hit the St. John's Regional Medical Center and that there are multiple reports of injuries.
In Minneapolis, the 18 people who were hurt were treated at North Memorial Hospital, and spokeswoman Wendy Jerde said the injuries were not serious. The metro area's other two trauma centers, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and Regions Hospital in St. Paul, reported no injuries.
National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Krause said the line of damage stretched from just west of Minneapolis through the city and into the northeastern suburbs.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said it wasn't immediately clear how many homes were affected. "It's a lot," he said.
Though the damage covered several blocks, it appeared few houses were totally demolished. Much of the damage was to roofs, front porches that had been sheared away, or smaller items such as fences and basketball goals.
The tornado left part of a garage door in a tree. Many large trees were uprooted and toppled or left leaning against houses.
Residents walked around their neighborhoods taking in all the damage. Some chatted on cellphones about what they saw, while others snapped pictures.
Others went to work, tending to downed trees with chainsaws, machetes and hacksaws.
The tornado left a tree leaning against Pat Trafton's house, but she said her family escaped harm.
"It's been a crazy day," Trafton, 67, told The Associated Press. "They say it was a monster tornado. ... It all just happened so fast."
Krause said it was clearly a tornado — the first to hit the city since August 2009. "There was no doubt right away," the meteorologist said.
Some north Minneapolis residents told the Star Tribune they saw the tornado go through their yards.
"It went right between our houses," said Tiffany Pabich, who was taking a nap just as the tornado passed. "A tree landed on top of my car. We smelled gas right away."
The storms uprooted as many as 50 natural gas service lines in Minneapolis and suburban St. Louis Park, and CenterPoint Energy warned residents to be careful of gas leaks. Xcel Energy reported more than 20,000 of its customers lost electricity in the metro area.
The Minneapolis Police Department asked people who didn't live in the area to stay away. A shelter for those displaced by the storm was set up Sunday afternoon at a nearby armory.