WADENA, Minn. -- Authorities have confirmed a number of tornado touchdowns across Minnesota, including one in Wadena that has resulted in widespread damage.
The story is similar in southern Minnesota, where reports say a massive tornado hit Albert Lea and cut a swath across much of Freeborn County.
Three people died from Thursday's storms. A man was killed when a twister hit the Cenex station in Mentor, in northwest Minnesota and earlier, authorities in Otter Tail County reported a woman killed by a tornado in Almora.
Residents and law enforcment tell KARE 11 that the roof of Wadena High School has been ripped off, the local bus garage and an apartment complex have been damaged, and sections of Highway 29 have been blocked between Wadena and Alexandria.
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Lisa Reddick from Tri-County Hospital says they've seen 20 patients, one of whom is listed as critical. 11 of those patients were treated and discharged.
The tornado also destroyed a gas station and four vehicles. Three other people were hurt when the tornado hit about 6:30 p.m. The sheriff's department says a two block area of town has been virtually wiped out.
This weekend was supposed to be Wadena's all school reunion. People were lining up for a big parade tonight when the storm system began rolling in.
Trees were knocked down and houses damaged across town.
Lori Wolden, wife of Wadena mayor Wayne Wolden, says "there's houses half-gone" and "there's no trees" in the southwest part of town.
Wolden says she was at her downtown beauty shop when the storm hit at 5:15 p.m. She says the winds were "amazing."
Power was knocked out. An hour later, she says, it was sunny.
Down the road in Parkers Prairie Mayor Don Zuehlke returned to his farm just outside of town to find the place in ruins. Zuehlke reports that three 300 foot turkey barns were destroyed, an antique barn flattened.
In southeast Minnesota numerous reports of damaged homes, farms and crops are coming from Freeborn County. No reports of injuries have been confirmed.
The powerful storms also knocked out power in many places across southern Minnesota.
The Rochester Post Bulletin reported on its website that the tornado damage in Freeborn County was "massive."
Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh says the city is opening up it's National Guard Armory to shelter those displaced by the twister.
Another tornado touchdown was confirmed near Winsted. Fortunately it skipped through a bean field and damage appears to be minimal.
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Mn/DOT warned against travel on many highways and roads in southern Minnesota. Officials said driving conditions were hazardous and travel was not advised.
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