LITCHFIELD, Minn. – Storms spawned tornadoes, torrential rain and powerful winds that damaged homes, deposited a snowplow in a tree and flooded highways in north-central Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency Tuesday in eight Wisconsin counties after heavy rains caused flooding, power outages and damage to roads and bridges. At least one death was reported in northern Wisconsin.
Authorities say a tornado struck Michigan's western Upper Peninsula during an overnight storm that downed trees and caused power outages and flooding.
The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday a low-end EF1 tornado struck three miles south of the Gogebic County community of Bessemer. Winds were estimated around 90 mph.
The state Department of Natural Resources says the storm dumped nearly a foot of rain on the county and washed out access to a boat launch. Some area homes were being evacuated Tuesday afternoon.
Officials have activated the Michigan Emergency Operations Center and provided assistance on the ground and in the air and water.
In Litchfield, Minnesota, Audrey Schoenberg took shelter at a restaurant after a tornado Monday flipped her home off its foundation.
"I'm numb. I'm numb. I don't know really what I do feel right now. It's quite a shock to see that everything is gone," she said.
Authorities said the tornado damaged up to 20 homes in the area. Keith Johnson, the mayor of Litchfield about 70 miles west of Minneapolis, said there was serious damage, but that no one was injured.
"I've lived in this town 52 years and I've never seen a storm like this in our community," Johnson said.
Diane Kelbing told KARE-TV that she and her husband raced to their mobile home park shelter when they heard the tornado warning siren.
"Well, the garage is gone, the shed is gone, the snowmobile trailer is gone. We've got a snowplow in the tree," Kelbing said.
Fifty residents were removed from the Hilltop Health Care Center in nearby Watkins after the home lost part of its roof. The American Red Cross said it is assisting the evacuees.
Law enforcement also reported a tornado touchdown around 6:30 p.m. Monday, 3 miles east of Rockville, in Stearns County, Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.
The storms also washed out sections of highways in northern Wisconsin and closed other roads. Flooding in the Town of Saxon forced authorities to block off roads for repairs, and the Hurley Fire Department and other agencies helped rescue people stranded in the Saxon Harbor area, the Iron County Sheriff's Department said.
The sheriff's department said Mitchell R. Koski, 56, of Montreal, Wisconsin, had died, but didn't specify how the man died or where he was found. Sheriff Tony Furyk and Coroner Diane Simonich didn't immediately return voicemail and email messages.
Wisconsin emergency officials said in a news release 33 people were trapped on Michigan Island in Lake Superior. The release didn't offer any other details but said as of midmorning 20 people had been rescued and rescue efforts were still underway.
Walker's declaration included the counties of Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn. The governor said he is instructing the Wisconsin National Guard and all state agencies to help those affected by the storms.
The National Weather Service reported nearly 10 inches of rain near Saxon, nearly 8 inches of rain near Siren and 7.5 inches near Cable in northern Wisconsin.
The storms also damaged or destroyed 85 boats at Saxon Harbor in Iron County, state emergency officials said.
The Ashland County Sheriff's Office urged against travel in the county because many local roads were flooded. Sections of U.S. Highway 2 and state Highway 13 south of Highbridge were closed Tuesday.
The National Weather Service said more flooding was likely in northern Wisconsin, where rivers and creeks will continue to rise over the next two days. Areas around Danbury to Minong, Hayward, Ashland and Hurley are expected to experience the most significant flooding.
In Minnesota, the storms also generated a deluge of heavy rain causing the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office to advise against travel late Monday because of flooding. In St. Cloud, powerful rain flooded streets and left some motorists stranded in high water. In a Baxter industrial park, a foot of water covered the roadways. The National Weather Service reported 11 inches of rain fell in the east-central Minnesota city of Sturgeon Lake.