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100-mph straight-line wind destroys county property, trees

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Lori Sorenson

LeRoy Veldkamp woke up his wife, Denise, shortly before 5 a.m. Monday and told her they needed to get to the basement.
That was a good call.
Moments later straight-line winds hammered their home, damaging the roof and sending debris through the south windows.
“A board came through and embedded itself in the north wall,” Denise Veldkamp said. The board struck not far from where they’d been sleeping.
The Veldkamps and their two children, ages 15 and 12, were not hurt, but a good share of their farm place in northeastern Rock County was destroyed.
A machine shed, a recently enclosed cattle barn and a grain bin were obliterated, damaging machinery stored inside.
Two grain bins had their tops torn off and one landed on Highway 23, temporarily blocking traffic on the busy state road.
“I’ve said before to LeRoy when we’ve heard about tornadoes, ‘We’re not exempt,’” Veldkamp said.
This time they weren’t.
And neither were many other property owners in Rock County and the surrounding area.
The storm, which carried wind speeds over 100 mph, started in South Dakota and caused Garretson to shut down Monday under a threat of a gas leak.
That same system continued east across Rock County, flattening buildings and toppling trees in its wake.
The eye of the storm appeared to travel along County Road 20, the east-west blacktop that enters the Blue Mounds State Park at Highway 75. Many rural farm places along that route suffered severe damage.
In other parts of the county, peripheral damage was nearly as bad, but mostly limited to downed trees and wind damage.
Further east, between Hardwick and Kenneth, the J.R. Scott farm had a downed silo, and other properties had caved-in overhead doors, gaping holes in barn rooftops and debris scattered across nearby soybean and corn fields.
In Luverne, traffic was diverted temporarily around a downed tree on Highway 75, and many Luverne area residents, like their rural Rock County counterparts, were busy Monday cleaning up downed trees and branches.
Storm was straight line winds, not tornado
Todd Heitkamp of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said the winds were clearly in the “straight line” category, not a tornado.
“… mainly by looking at the damage and how the structures that were damaged were oriented,” Heitkamp said, when asked how they know the difference.
“We also use the radar, and everything points to strong straight-line winds.
According to Luverne volunteer weather recorder Troy Thone, Monday morning's straight-line wind event brought wind gusts of nearly 50 mph. during the actual thunderstorms, with winds increasing significantly following the initial storm system. 
“Winds actually peaked at the airport at 63 mph. with rainfall of 0.23 inches,” Thone said.
“Keep in mind that severe thunderstorm criteria, as it relates to wind speeds, means that winds need to be a minimum of 58 mph or greater.”
Farmers assess crop damage
Insurance agent Shirley Top said her office at Kozlowski Insurance was busy Monday fielding calls from clients about storm damage.
“We have had a lot of wind claims,” Top said. “Trees falling on houses, machine sheds with roofs that came off them …”
As of noon, she had handled nearly two-dozen such property damage claims.
She said crop damage so far has also been wind related. As of noon Monday, she wasn’t aware of any fields that were completely destroyed, but she said many Rock County farmers will likely be reminded of the June 22 storm this fall.
“Flat corn (stalks laid flat by wind) gets to be a pain in the butt at harvest time,” she said. “They have to come at it all from the same direction or they have to get special equipment.”
Monday’s early morning storm came on the heels of a Friday deluge that included hail.
Top said hail reports were sporadic with some parts of the county reporting worse damage than others.
For example, western Rock County had limited pea-size hail Friday, while some parts of southeastern Rock County reported golf ball-sized hailstones.
Moisture tally ahead for June, still behind for the year
The weekend rainfall, counting Friday night, totaled nearly two inches in some parts of the county, while others had only a half inch.
Thone said his equipment in Luverne has measured 4.41 inches of rainfall in June as of noon Monday.
“That is already about one-half inch above normal through the end of the month with over a week to go,” he said, adding that the area is still two inches below normal for the year.
Regardless, he said it’s safe to say Rock County and most of southwest Minnesota is no longer under drought conditions.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has officially removed the county from being listed at any stage of drought including the weakest stage, "Abnormally Dry."

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