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Damage From Minneapolis Tornado Estimated At $166M

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A tornado that tore through north Minneapolis caused an estimated $166 million, and that figure is expected to rise, officials said Tuesday.

Crews were going block-by-block Tuesday, clearing debris from the north side neighborhoods that sustained heavy property damage from Sunday’s twister.

City inspectors divided the damaged area into three zones and had finished their estimates in two of them, city spokesman Matt Laible said. Inspectors found 600 buildings had been damaged, including 35 homes that could no longer be occupied.

The City Council met in emergency session Tuesday and extended the local disaster declaration, which allowed the city to tap special funds to pay for tornado cleanup.

Six of the seven Minneapolis schools in the area reopened Tuesday, and one remained closed because it lacked power, the district said.

More than 22,000 Xcel customers lost power in the storm, but that was down to about 7,400 at 9 a.m. Tuesday, a company spokesman said. The company expected most customers would have power restored by the end of the day Wednesday.

Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and other political leaders toured the damage Monday with Mayor R.T. Rybak. Afterward, Dayton, said he’s ready to help.

“We’re going to do everything possible as a state to support the city,” Dayton told reporters at the Capitol in St. Paul.

The governor said he was prepared to consider a special legislative session to pass disaster relief. Later Monday he issued an executive order saying the National Guard Armory would remain open for the more than 200 people who were displaced.

Klobuchar said she saw a lot of damaged homes and businesses but her main concern was for all the people whose lives have been “twisted and turned, and turned upside down.”

She said officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency were already assessing the damage. If there was $6.9 million in uninsured damage to public facilities, the city would qualify for federal disaster assistance.

“I’m confident we’re going to rebuild this community and make it better than before,” said Ellison, who lives in north Minneapolis.

On Sunday, the tornado ripped a nearly five-mile path from suburban St. Louis Park, where it hit a condo complex and two businesses, through north Minneapolis and into Fridley.

The National Weather Service said that the tornado was either a strong EF1 or possibly an EF2, and was on the ground for 6.25 miles in Hennepin County plus an additional 8 miles across Anoka and Ramsey counties. An EF1 tornado has speeds of up to 109 mph. An EF2 has speeds of 110-137 mph.

Authorities said one man died in the storm and another died helping clear debris afterward.

Floyd David Whitfield, 56, was killed when he was hit by a tree branch that came through the window of his minivan. Rob MacIntyre, 53, collapsed about 6 p.m. Sunday, not long after helping clear the tree that was toppled by the tornado.

Dave Soderstrom, who had been helping MacIntyre, said paramedics were delayed by the debris covering the streets and had to travel on foot. “They worked on him for 45 minutes,” Soderstrom said. “They tried everything multiple times. He just didn’t revive. He didn’t react to anything.”

MacIntyre was president of the Iowa-based Raptor Resource Project, the organization behind an “Eagle Cam” in Decorah that has attracted worldwide attention over the Internet. The group issued a statement mourning his death.

Forty-three people were treated at North Memorial hospital on Sunday and Monday, said spokesman Mark Vukelich. Most were quickly treated and released but two were admitted. One of them had been discharged by Tuesday morning and the other was expected to leave by Tuesday night, he said.

Addie Smith and his four children considered themselves lucky that they weren’t hurt.

With a tornado just a couple of blocks away, Smith herded three of his children into a hallway. Then he remembered his 8-month-old girl was in the bedroom. As debris flew in through the window, he put the baby on the floor and lay on top to protect her.

The house “shook really bad, like a bad roller-coaster ride. I thought the whole house was just going to come apart,” Smith recalled Monday.

The tornado ripped off part of the side of the house, exposing the staircase and filling it with debris, Smith said. But neither the 49-year-old nor the other children — ages 4, 7 and 10– were injured.

“I thought we was going to die,” he said.

The tornado was part of a larger outbreak through the central U.S. that included Joplin, Mo., where dozens of people were killed, and La Crosse, Wis.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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