MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A powerful thunderstorm cell swept in from Iowa and caught residents of Freeborn County by surprise Tuesday.

When it was over, power lines were down and fields strewn with debris.

“Nothing against the [National Weather Service], but this caught us off guard,” said Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag. “We didn’t know this was coming.”

When it was over, the powerful 80-mile-per-hour straight-line winds toppled trees and power poles, and turned a metal barn into shards of deadly missiles.

“Take a look at all these sheets of tin. All of them have sharp edges, very sharp corners,” Freitag said.

(credit: CBS)

A turkey barn east of Geneva, owned by the Larry Schultz family, had just been filled with 7,400 baby birds. After the storm, only a handful were found alive.

Cindy Schultz, her mother and 13-year-old son were giving the only days-old turkey chicks around-the-clock care.

“They have a camper here that they camp out because you to be here with the birds day in and day out for the first two weeks minimum, you know, to make sure that they survive,” said family friend Caris Maloney.

The mother and daughter were seriously hurt when the camping trailer was rolled over and crushed. They were transported to Rochester where they remain hospitalized. Luckily, the teenage boy escaped with minor injuries.

To help out, friends gathered up personal belongings and the few living chicks they could find. What had filled an entire barn could now be held in a pail. A family’s entire season of turkeys was gone in an instant.

But the true miracle is that a family survived.

“That’s really hard, that’s numbing. It’s very numbing to be out there, to think that they were, that’s really hard,” Maloney said.

Electricity to the town of Geneva has been restored. Crews are working Wednesday to get service back to other areas east of there.

Bill Hudson