Tornado, high winds slam South Dakota’s largest city

Source: By Associated Press • Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Fire Chief Brad Goodroad said at an early morning news conference that at least 37 structures collapsed in Sioux Falls or have structural issues after the storm rolled through the city in the eastern part of the state just before midnight. There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-2 tornado with winds of about 125 mph hit a portion of the city. It was examining a second area where a hospital complex suffered heavy damage to see whether that also was a tornado or simply straight-line winds.

Sioux Falls has an estimated population of 187,200.

Sioux Falls schools delayed classes today as crews worked to clear debris, and city officials urged people to stay off the streets until 8 a.m.

Mayor Paul TenHaken said the city was looking into a “breach of protocol” with its outdoor siren warning system. TenHaken said most of the sirens sounded in the southwest part of the city, where the most serious damage occurred, but the system is supposed to sound sirens citywide.

Among the buildings damaged was Avera Behavioral Health Hospital. The storm ripped off part of the hospital’s roof and caused significant damage to the building’s windows, according to Avera spokeswoman Michelle Pellman.

“Seven Behavioral Health patients have been transferred to the Avera Heart Hospital,” Pellman said. “Only one patient suffered an injury, and it was non-life threatening.”

The Avera Heart Hospital also had damage to its lobby and windows, but all patients are safe, Pellman told the Argus Leader.

Other damaged businesses included an Advance Auto Parts store where a wall collapsed. Kohl’s and Best Buy lost part of their roofs, and Pizza Ranch suffered heavy damage.

Xcel Energy Inc. said as many as 25,000 customers were without power at one point because of the damage, but that number had dropped to about 2,100 customers by 6:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service warned of possible severe thunderstorms today across the Plains and Upper Midwest, stretching from western Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa to Wisconsin.