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Tornadoes roll through Grand Forks area

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Several tornadoes were reported in the area Friday night, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks and weather radio.

Graphic: Cities in area

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Several tornadoes were reported in the area Friday night, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks and weather radio.

Much of the Red River Valley remained under a tornado watch or severe thunderstorm watch until midnight.

The line of severe thunderstorms extended from three miles south of Oslo, Minn., to four miles southwest of Buxton, N.D.

A flash flood warning is in effect until 9 a.m. today for Grand Forks County, east-central Nelson County and northwest Polk County.

About 7:30 p.m. Friday, a tornado was spotted near 32nd Avenue South and Interstate 29 in Grand Forks, according to various reports.

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Tornado touchdowns also were reported near Larimore and Manvel. There were reports of a tornado a half-mile north of Warsaw earlier Friday evening. The tornado also was spotted four miles west of Park River and there were reports of trees down along several county roads. At 8:20 p.m., the weather service reported golf ball-size hail was reported four miles northwest of Thompson.

The Nelson County Sheriff's Department advised no travel because secondary roads were getting deluged with heavy rain. Residents reported that 4½ to 6 inches of rain fell in 45 minutes near Whitman, N.D. There also were reports of washed-out roads.

Between 1:20 and 1:30 p.m. in Cavalier County, 10 miles northwest of Mountain, N.D., a funnel cloud swirled well above the ground before it lifted back into a cloud, the weather service said.

The Grand Forks County Fair was canceled and officials urged residents to seek shelter. City streets were filling with water as heavy rain hit at about 8 p.m. There was a report of a power outage in north Grand Forks at about 9 p.m. because a tree fell on power lines.

Emergency shelters in Grand Forks were opened at Selke Hall and Altru Hospital and at the Civic Center in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Grand Forks Emergency Management Director Jim Campbell said Altru's shelter isn't normally used but was opened because of the severe threat.

At about 8 p.m., Interstate 29 travelers took refuge in Hillsboro's two gas stations as black clouds and storms threatened from the northwest.

A couple of dozen people, many from Grand Forks, crowded the Cenex station. About 45 vehicles could be seen in the parking lot. Many more pulled into the Tesoro station.

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At the Cenex, Billie Kellar and her fiance, Brian Dorff, said they had fled Grand Forks an hour

ear-lier. They heard on a radio station about the tornado warnings.

The couple, who live in a mobile home on the west side of town, said they didn't feel secure in the mobile home, so they piled all of their pets - one dog, a

160-pound English mastiff, and 15 cats - into their 2003 Grand Prix and headed south.

Kellar and Dorff arrived in Hillsboro about 8 p.m. when the emergency sirens sounded. They pulled into the store and told the clerk about the pets. The store clerk said to bring them in and take shelter. Within minutes, a dozen people with pets stood around the aisles of the store.

In other parts of North Dakota, a tornado also was spotted seven miles southwest of Mandan moving east at 25 mph.

Thirty-two of North Dakota's 53 counties were under a severe storm watch, plus Kittson, Marshall, Pennington and Polk counties of northwestern Minnesota.

The flash flood watch that continued into this morning included Benson, Cavalier, Eddy, Nelson, Pembina, Ramsey, Towner and Walsh counties.

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The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: WEATHER
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