North Minneapolis Begins Painful Recovery

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s hard enough to imagine the sheer terror of a passing tornado, when you’re safely hunkered down in a basement. Then try to comprehend the fear going through Ronald Crossland’s mind when, just a block from his North Minneapolis home, his vehicle came to a jarring stop.

“When you look at the truck I’m thankful to be alive actually,” Crossland said.

For the past five years, the former state transportation worker has been down on his luck. Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, along came Sunday.

“I lost my vehicle, I’ve been out of work since 2006, you know, but I am thankful I guess,” he said.

He’s thankful because he came whisker close to certain death. While driving his 1999 Cadillac Escalade Sunday afternoon, he saw the approaching weather and was trying to return home. Just a block from reaching Vincent Avenue, he thought he was about to lose his life.

A giant ash tree crashed to the ground, scoring a direct hit on Ronald’s vehicle, crushing the cab like a mere pop can.

When asked if he had time to be frightened, Crossland said, “Yeah, not knowing it at the time but yeah, I probably was.”

Fortunately for him, he instinctively pressed the button and reclined the driver’s seat, giving him more room to move. That’s when a neighbor helped him crawl out to safety and to a scene of utter devastation.

“I didn’t feel no glass, like on my face when I got home. I had some glass in my shoe, but none in my eyes or in my hair,” he said.

That giant ash tree was just one of hundreds, perhaps thousand of trees uprooted and snapped off in the storm. Around the corner and down the street, a group of three Minneapolis firefighters were pitching in on their own time.

Kelly Anderson was one of them.

“We saw the area needed help and we work in North Minneapolis. We’re part of a crew that’s been here for years. Part of our civic duty is to help the community and our neighbors,” he said.

Now, chainsaws and chippers shroud a four-mile long swath of the city in a symphony of unwelcomed racket. Volunteers, neighbors and city crews are clearing away debris that has turned lives upside down. But for one man at least, Sunday’s tornado has made Crossland a believer that luck can change in a heartbeat.

“I thank God I’m alive, thank God I’m alive,” he said.

At 21st Avenue North and Queen lives another storm survivor. She feels just as lucky as Crossland and with an equally harrowing story to share.

“I was numb, I’m still numb,” Nancy Coleman said.

Coleman was coming down from her second-story staircase when suddenly, the north side of her home was literally ripped apart.

“I was standing right above where it started to go off,” Coleman said.

She had been working in her second-story office when she decided it was time to head downstairs. She didn’t get any farther than the staircase when the entire side of the wall disappeared. That force exposed Coleman to a whirling sea of debris.

“I wasn’t thinking of anything. It was like, extremely quick and very violent. And I’m still picking grit and stuff off of me,” Coleman said.

Now with no power, residents like Coleman have to find temporary shelter. The storm scored a direct hit on Xcel Energy’s main distribution lines. Hundreds of power poles are toppled or badly listing and powerlines are down everywhere you look. More than 100 line crews will be working around the clock to restore power to the four-square-mile area.

But the job promises to be both tedious and slow.

“First we have to get access, bring in heavy equipment, then drill holes and plant poles and finally string the conductor. Could be a day, two or three — it’s hard to say,” said Steve Roalstad, Xcel spokesman.

Residents know that restoring power is the first step to rebuilding their shattered neighborhoods.

“Yes, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and we ask this community of us to come together,” said resident Helen Lawler.

Mayor, Officials Talk About Tornado Damage Plans

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said city crews are clearing debris block by block and tallying the number of homes damaged by the tornado that killed one person and injured more than 40 others.

Speaking at a storm-damaged neighborhood early Monday morning, Rybak said reports of widespread looting are false. The mayor says one liquor store was looted right after the tornado hit and there were a few burglaries overnight, but nothing widespread.

Rybak also praised how North Minneapolis handled the emergency situation. Read that story here.

Meanwhile, other officials got a first-hand look at the wreckage. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Mayor R.T. Rybak and other city leaders went on the morning tour.

“I think that you’ve all seen from the pictures of this area that there were a lot of houses and businesses that were twisted and turned in this tornado,” said Klobuchar, at a news conference. “But it’s more than that when you visit with the families at the family center their lives have been twisted … and turned upside down.”

She said that they’re already looking into getting federal assistance from FEMA and that they were already on the ground doing assessments. She says Minneapolis might be eligible for up to $6.9 million in federal disaster aid, as well as individual and small-business loans.

“The people of the neighborhood are resilient,” said Ellison. “I’m confident that we will rebuild this community and we will be better than ever before.”

“In the six months, a year, that it takes to rebuild this beautiful community,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, “we will be here for you, just like we always have been.”

Local food vendors help feed tornado victims

Slideshow: Twin Cities Tornado Damage

Slideshow: Aerial Images

WCCO’s Liz Collin Reports On Looting Incident

Neighborhood Damage

When the tornado smashed through neighborhoods on Minneapolis’ north side, it damaged at least 100 homes. The storm also toppled tall trees into houses and downed power lines.

Crews are in the area Monday, making repairs, clearing roads, fixing downed power lines and gas leaks and assessing the damage to buildings.

Police spokesman William Palmer says off ramps from Interstate 94 to north Minneapolis will be closed until further notice to reduce traffic in the damaged areas.

Officials said it is necessary to prohibit all access to a block until each block is considered safe. Once a block is OK, residents can enter the area through one of the designated checkpoints. See the checkpoints and read the Minneapolis Police Tornado Response Plan.

WCCO’s Holly Wagner Reports On Mpls. Damage Assessments

Injuries And Evacuations

Floyd David Whitfield, 59, of Minneapolis, was killed in the storm when a tree fell on top of his car at North 37th Avenue and Fremont Avenue. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said he died as a result of blunt force head and neck injuries.

North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale reported treating 42 people, including 20 that were brought in by ambulance. They said none of those injuries were serious. On Monday, only two people were still being hospitalized.

Hennepin County Medical Center had four victims from the storm that were treated and released.

Approximately 200 people stayed at the Red Cross temporary shelter overnight at the Northeast Minneapolis Armory.

Monday morning, volunteers are addressing physical health and mental health concerns, as well as making sure families have necessary items like diapers, formula and medications.

Local corporations, including Target, are stepping up and donating items for families. The shelter will continue to provide meals all day to those in need.

The Salvation Army is also assisting and set up three mobile kitchens in St. Louis Park, Fridley and North Minneapolis. Read more about the victims of the tornado.

Need Help? See The Resources Page.


Seven schools in north Minneapolis were closed Monday because of the tornado. They are Lucy Craft Laney, Cityview, Nellie Stone Johnson, Hmong International Academy, Plymouth Youth Center, Urban League Elementary and Northstar.

Patrick Henry High School, North High School and Folwell Elementary School were open for anyone needing food, water and shelter.

All Fridley Public Schools were also closed because of the tornado.

The North Memorial Clinic, Camden Physicians, in Minneapolis is closed until further notice because of damage. Patients with appointments are being referred to the clinic in Plymouth, Minn. on the corner of Rockford Road and Highway 169. Click here to see closures.

Power Outages

Xcel Energy said they now expect to restore power to most of the thousands of customers who lost service in Sunday’s storm by Wednesday night. Xcel had originally thought it could have power to its by Monday night, but it had underestimated the extent of the damage and the time it would take to fix it.

Xcel said 22,000 customers in the Twin Cities lost power at the height of the storm — with north Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Brooklyn Center and Fridley hardest hit.

Xcel urges people to avoid downed power lines and says that it is not safe to drive over them.

By 9:30 a.m. there were 11,035 people affected, including the areas of Wisconsin that were hit by the storm.

CenterPoint Energy Concerns, Advice About Gas Lines After Tornado

CenterPoint Energy is advising its customers returning to their homes in North Minneapolis to not attempt to turn on their gas if it isn’t working.

If your gas is not working, call CenterPoint Energy at 1-877-477-1664. Again, do not attempt to turn on the gas yourself.

The company is also advising its customers that if they smell gas in their homes, they should leave immediately and tell others to do the same.

For more natural gas safety tips, see CenterPoint’s website.

  • Mike Hawk

    This is truely the worst thing that’s happend to Mpls. in a long time. It’s heart breaking. What I’d like to know is why my girlfriend & I watched a tornado touch down on the channel 5 news, near Forest Lake at 3:12 pm yet the sirens didn’t sound in Forest Lake until 4:20 – 4:21. This to me seems totally unacceptable & some one needs to be held accountable.

    • Good Ol Boy

      Technically, they reported that wasn’t a tornado touching down, it was a funnel cloud. The video footage was MNDOT’s cameras. The news could not confirm it was a tornado.

      Who should be held accountable? Do you think there’s a guy in an office, fighting off sleep, whose only job is to hold his finger over the siren button and wait until it’s time to push it? Come on. Who is accountable?

  • Joe Hanson

    Where’s Senator Franken?

    • JP

      Why in the world do all you people have to turn this into a political “bashing”? What does Sen. Bachmann or Sen Franken have to do withe the tragedy in Minneapolis? Get a life! Go help someone instead of criticizing.

      • Sharon L Robinson Hambley

        Since when is Bachmann a Senator (she wishes)…!!!!!!

      • Good Ol Boy

        There is no such person as “Sen. Bachmann.”

    • geezer

      Taping SNL??

  • Crystal Charley

    SenatorFranken is in Washington DC protecting the interests of the working people. Meanwhile our legislators, while complaining about government being involved in private lives and worrying about the economy/jobs, spends their time trying to slam their religious views down everyone’s throat and does nothing more than “tax cuts for the rich” and shafting the poor/middle class.

    • Linda

      47% of the population needs to start paying some federal taxes.
      STOP TAKING, TAKING, and TAKING.. it is NOT my responsibility to pay for someone else’s mistakes or laziness.
      Fix the tax code SO EVERYONE PAYS TAXES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Reasonable

        Approximately 80% of the people that don’t pay federal income taxes are the elderly and the disabled. The elderly already worked, raised you, paid in to Soc Sec/Medicaid/etc… and did their part. The miniscule amount of fraudulent welfare recipients will serve to ruin everyone else because the focus on them skews the reality. A few rotten apples spoil the bunch indeed!

        • Linda

          You really think welfare fraud is small? HA! Do unicorns talk to you? Does money grow on trees in your world too.
          Geeze and we wonder why America is slipping.. right here..

      • ellie

        Just about everyone does pay taxes. If they buy something, they pay sales tax. If they live somewhere, they pay property tax (yes, even renters, who pay at a higher rate than homeowners). If they buy gas, they pay gas taxes. If they have a job, they pay SS taxes. The part of the population that does not pay INCOME taxes are those who don’t have jobs (have you heard of children and seniors? or maybe the unemployed?) or whose jobs pay so little that there’s not much to tax. If you have a good job that puts you into the bracket that pays INCOME taxes, then you should be thankful and stop complaining.

        • Linda

          I will quit my job, get a lower paying one with less responsibility so that my new friend ELLIE will pay for ME!

          Luv ya!!!

      • HG

        I sure don’t know what taxes and Franken has to do with any of this! I think all of you political complainers should get a life and stop complaining! This story has NOTHING to do with taxes, jobs and the economy!

  • Citizen

    This is the type of disaster when all of us can truly appreciate and thank the public employees who are on the job practically 24/7. The firefighters who are doing rescue work and monitoring natural gas leaks. The police who are also doing rescue, keeping the streets safe, and containing looters and more. The Salvation Army feeding people and providing shelter. The Xcel crews trying to restore power. Public and private partnership working together. But, especially, we need to remember and thank these public employees for their sacrifice during this natural disaster AND NOT LISTEN to the Rethuglicans who seem to think their dedication and service is superfluous and that they are expendable and too highly paid.

  • linda

    I love it looting a liquor store…. enough said

    • Ven

      ESAD – you are what’s wrong with the world

  • Sgt. Sissay

    Dayton, was there yesterday…what sort of pathetic moron are you people? Trying to blame your ignorance on someone whose only job was to improve your disjointed lives. Lies and trickery, republicants does it best

  • Carol

    What the h@#l does this have to do with politics anyway ? Can’t you people for once put aside your mindless bickering and come together and pray for the people who were victims of this terrible event ? The topic here is about a terrible storm that devastated a community. Keep your political rhetoric to yourselves.

    • navehm

      Amen and totally agree with you. For the folks spewing their political rhetoric:.Better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt. Just shut up.

      • Jude

        Then there’s the looting. Let’s just step over these bruised and battered victims for that free bottle of booze over there. Wouldja get your bloody body out of my way, there’s a TV in that building I just gotta have. Sick! Sick!

  • navehm

    Hats off and God bless all of the public employees who are busting their butt have been since this happened. Thanks for all that you do!!!!

  • The friendly elf

    My wife is a Red Cross Disaster Responder and was on the scene shortly after 5 p.m. Why no mention of the Red Cross in these articles?

  • Anna

    My friend came home yesterday to help out with the damage . I am thankful that there are people like him who are heroes. The world today needs people like him :)

  • theleolady

    TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!! I thank him for keeping me and my family safe, we had just left out of N.MPLS. My fathers house was not touch but I do know lots of ppl that lost everything. MPLS born and raised, lets get out and help them that need it. The lord still has his arms wrapped around us!

  • Dale Gribbl3

    Of course they are claiming that reports of looting are false! PC journalism and government censorship strike again!!! The public can’t handle the truth!!!

    • Jason

      This is true. My house is about 12-15 blocks from major destruction. I heard more than usual gunfire. How widespread I dont know. Curfew was put into action, that tells me all I need to know.

      • Dale Gribble

        FEMA teams were in action last night, directing the MPD’s mop-up of pockets of resistance. Even now the area is off limits to citizens. Bad business afoot in there.

  • Todd W. Olson

    Kurt Zeller says that he’s there for them. Oh, wow, I can only imagine what sort of relief plan the GOP has for North Minneapolis. One way Greyhound tickets?

  • James

    Okay I don’t know why you need to bash wcco for that. get a grip. you act as though they are covering nothing

  • jeff

    One way Greyhound tickets back to Chicago or Gary Indiana works for me.

    Also, I love how on the looting report video, the there is a “We accept EBT” sign in front of the liquor store. LOL.

    • jeffery

      You’re a loser…would you say this bs if people knew your full name…probably not! I bet you’ve never even been to north minneapolis…keep your stupid ass comments to yourself!

      • criticism much

        Hey Jeffery. Or is it Jeffrey?
        Anyway- Yeah I grew up in North Mpls. I know the neighborhood VERY well, and had to move away from there.

        Here’s the truth about MPLS. Back in the 70’s-80’s… EVERYONE knew each other.
        It was beautiful. Nobody locked their doors because we all trusted each other.
        Everyone on the blocks all associated with each others kids. We had block parties.
        Were involved with the church… it was great.

        Man that welfare shed a huge light on Minnesota.
        By 1988 things started to turn for the worse. By 1989 it was time to go.

    • st paul


  • jlynn

    We love you North Minneapolis. We pray for all those affected by this disaster. We pray for all those who are providing security, shelter, clean up.

    You are strong people and you will get through this, just like you do everything else.

    Praying for you all.

  • Elaine

    Chaley—Salvation Army is mentioned under injuries/evacuations, the 7th paragraph, read the whole thing before you comment.

  • Missy

    They talked about it on the news this am….just not on the website

  • Dayton: State Will Help Minneapolis After Tornado « CBS Minnesota

    […] Web Extra: MN Leaders Say They’ll Help Mpls. Recover From Tornado […]

  • Jason

    Spot on. Couldnt have said it better myself.

  • Avery

    As a resident and teacher in North, its not the “thugs” I’m afraid of. Most violence is committed by stupid kids who simply need to be loved and find identity. I’m afraid of the police that racially profile my friends and students because they are black, or because they look like “gangsters”. It’s the police who shoot our youth, raid our homes without warrants, and drive 70 mph down residential streets and through our parks. For now, we should be focusing on healing our community, not stereotyping it…

    • Organize!

      Racist police keep North Minneapolis down. There will be a candlelight vigil tonight on Broadway for the most recent victims of police brutality in last night’s reign of terror. We stand with the communitiies of color against the occupying army of the MPD.

    • Good Ol Boy

      “It’s the police who shoot our youth”

      False. It’s the youth who shoot your youth.

      It’s black on black crime. Period. Don’t try to LIE and call it something it most certainly is NOT.

      • Organize!

        It has been demonstrated that virtually ALL of the shooting deaths of people of color in Minneapolis have occured at the hands of the MPD and then subsequently covered up. Already this year at least 6 shooting fatalities of people of color have been traced back to the MPD. Racist police out of Minneapolis! The people united will never be defeated!!!

        • yep

          I am wearing a tinfoil hat today too.

        • Good Ol Boy

          “It has been demonstrated that virtually ALL of the shooting deaths of people of color in Minneapolis have occured at the hands of the MPD ”

          False. That has never been “demonstrated.”

      • Avery

        @Good Ol Boy They murdered Fong Lee, then planted a weapon on him from the Police impound…

        • Good Ol Boy

          Avery, I personally know members of the MPD involved with that situation, and I have to tell you that you don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about, in regards to Fong Lee, or how he was thankfully taken out of society. It’s offensive that you’re suggesting the Mpls Police are bad, but Fong Lee was good.

          • Organize!!!

            Just another KKKlan supporter of the MPD spouting his racist filth. The people united will never be defeated!!!

            • Good Ol Boy

              Sorry, but you don’t get to call me a KKK supporter. Your comment is being reported.

              • Organize!!!

                If it walks like a duck…

                • Good Ol Boy

                  And it doesn’t. You, however, are so dripping with bitter racism, it’s pathetic.

                • Organize!!!

                  And you LOVE black folks, don’t you, GOB.Why, I bet some of your best friends are black, right? And you don’t have any problem with them, at all, least not the good ones that know their place and don’t get all upitty. Nothing worse than when they get all upitty…

                • Good Ol Boy

                  Not just some. My very best friend of the last 25 years of my life.

                  The “know their place” and “get all uppity” parts were lost on me. I don’t even know what you’re trying to insinuate with that. I’m positive it’s not accurate.

                • convoy

                  She gun get up in yo grill and cook some steaks.

                • st paul

                  Hey, it isn’t white people causing segregation… look at what has happened over periods of time in different communities.

                  For example Minneapolis.
                  Crime came, and drove out the whites.

                  There most certainly are awesome black people, as there are hispanic, asian.. ect.
                  I have friends of all color, but they don’t walk around with their pants around their ankles, or walk into traffic, or wear stupid gold necklaces with $ logos, or flashing signs at me with their hands. They don’t make me feel uncomfortable to be around. They call me on the phone invite me over, make me laugh, don’t rob me, don’t lie to me…

                  There’s a difference.

  • Jeff


    Last night’s reign of terror? What reign of terror? The tornado was caused by the Minneapolis police? You must be drinking too much malt liquor or smoking too much crack.

    • Avery

      @Jeff – Police are often over zealous in patrolling our community (and communities of color in general). The tornado caused a lot of damage to my house and many houses in the community. The police exacerbated the storm and its damage last night by coming to help clean up the downed trees with riot gear, machine guns, and mace. The drinking/smoking crack comment is inappropriate and uncalled for. In fact, downright shameful. I would wager that your response has more to do with denying police brutality because it causes you cognitive dissonance, than it does with your honest confusion.

      • Good Ol Boy

        The MPD does not have machine guns. Thanks for playing.

        • Organize!!!

          What do you call H+K MP5,s GOB? Maybe you’ll give the textbook NRA response that they are submachineguns, but I think the general public can be excused for not knowing the difference. And the MPD uses H+K MP5s.

          • Good Ol Boy

            Maybe you’ll be obvious and make it clear you don’t know what a machine gun is.

            Oops, you just did.

            Street cops in MPLS do NOT have MP5s. Sorry.

            • Organize!!!

              No, but the ERU does. And the ERU was there, in full gear, with their MP5s. Just like Avery described. And I’ll say it again: you’re splitting hairs when it comes to weapons. 90% of the public doesn’t know the difference between an MP5 and an MG34 (I picked a nice Nazi machinegun, because I’m sure you’re famililar with it), but I do. Don’t be such a buffoon.

              • Good Ol Boy

                So which is it? The Minneapolis Police or the Response Unit?

                Was the response unit really there to help clean up the downed trees as you claimed? I don’t think so. And again, thanks for playing.

                • Good Ol Boy

                  In other words, you wanted to make a really hard-hitting statement about the cops showing up with machine guns and dragging downed trees away, but you failed because I called your lies out.

                  Don’t blame me that you couldn’t garner sympathy with truth.

                • Organize!!!

                  The ERU is a police unit, GOB. You’re splitting hairs again, and you aren’t even doing it properly this time. In any event, contrary to your delusion, I”m not Avery. And I do believe that there may have been some sarcasm intended in his description of the police’s activities that night. But that was probably lost on you…

  • Pennagirl

    This tragedy pales in comparison to tragedy in Joplin, MO…89 DEAD, thousands homeless.

  • HERB

    This is what happens when you strip infrastructure funding to areas that are necessary for the public safetyThe siren system was probably one of those programs that TPaw “needed” to cut to provide the millions in tax breaks for his “too far right, think their right” corporate campaign contributors.

    Governor Dayton should executive order a “FEE” (thanks for the tip T’Paw) of 80% on any earnings above one million and an 80% “FEE” on campaign contributions over $1000. Let’s get some of these outrageous amounts into the State coffers to actually work for the people who do the work that make these companies and individuals wealthy. The money had to come from somewhere, usually a product that is produced by their workers. Corporate executives don’t make anything, they just manipulate and take the money that comes in from the labor of others.

  • Disabled Vietnam Vet

    Sorry to see this comment section has turn into grip session. Spare us!
    Horrible that some of the have not folk have even taken it on the chin again.
    Our Elected official need to see for themselves how bad it really is out there and sure enough, there is an actually a Natural Disaster. Of course most have insurance, sorry for the folks that were hurt, seems we have lost how to take cover.
    Can someone please tell me when we are going to stop Bush’s War of all Wars? This is certainly only helping the richer and speculators and our situation of Weal and Woe.
    Another Disabled Vet

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