Severe thunderstorms knock down power poles, trees across region

Recorded gusts were in the 60 mph range, possibly higher in some areas.

A Cass County Electric crew works to repair downed power poles and lines Friday, Aug. 14, between Fargo and Oxbow, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Winds whipping to possibly as high as 90 mph in an area just south of Fargo Friday morning, Aug. 14, knocked down 14 wooden power poles, although it wasn't quite as strong in other areas.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Greg Gust said that it usually takes winds that high to knock over a power pole. The official top wind speed in Fargo during the mid-morning storm was 61 mph at the North Dakota State University campus, he said.

The winds were also felt in areas across the region. The West Central Ag Services elevator in Felton, Minn., about 27 miles northeast of Moorhead, sustained damage to bins from the high winds.

The West Central Ag Services elevator in Felton, Minn., sustained damage from the high winds from passing storms on Friday, August 14. David Samson / The Forum


Trees were also reported down Friday in south Moorhead, Gust said, and followed on the heels of another storm Thursday night that had similar winds with a top speed of 63 mph reported at Rothsay, about 30 miles southeast of Moorhead.

Cass County Electric Cooperative spokeswoman Jocelyn Hovland said crews were busy repairing the 14 power lines and poles along South University Drive, affecting 39 customers, down from 88 initially.

She said wet weather and accumulated rainwater were slowing down the restoration process and that the storm downed power lines across the cooperative's service area.

Blinks and short duration outages were occurring throughout the day, affecting a minimal number of rural customers, Hovland said.

Power outages were reported across the Red River Valley after the storm roared through.


August 14, 2020 storm panorama West Fargo
A storm approaching West Fargo about 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14. W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum

As of 12:30 p.m., Xcel Energy's electric outage map showed 20 outage orders affecting 5,691 customers in the Fargo area. By 5 p.m. those customers' power had been restored.

The power outages closed at least one facility as the Northport Library in Fargo had to shut its doors, but was expected to reopen Saturday morning. The other two city libraries remained open.

Heavy rainfall also accompanied the storm, with Fargo police advising drivers about underpass flooding and signal lights out at some intersections.

As of mid-afternoon Friday, Gust said there had been about 2 inches of rain in Fargo, but there were almost 3 inches in Sabin just to the southwest of Moorhead.

The heavy rains and flooding in the historic Bonanzaville Pioneer Village in West Fargo caused the postponement of their annual Pioneer Day celebration to Sept. 5.

"The preservation of our historic buildings is of our utmost concern," said executive director Beth Jansen.

The highest rain totals in the region in the past 24 hours were in the town of Ottertail, on the east side of the Minnesota lake of the same name, with 4.72 inches. Another high report was 4.1 inches near Hillsboro in eastern North Dakota, Gust said.

Motorist drive through rainfall along Main Avenue in West Fargo on August 14, 2020. David Samson / The Forum

There was also a report of 5.8 inches in northeast Norman County, Minn., which Gust said caused the weather service to issue a minor flood warning for the Wild Rice River and the town of Ada, where the river level had risen 3 feet.

The Buffalo River near Sabin was also quickly rising, he said.

Gust said with the rain last weekend and the latest storms there was as much as 6 to 8 inches of rain this week in northern Wilkin County, northeast Norman County, and Otter Tail County in Minnesota.

"There's plenty of water that has to go through the system," Gust said.
Recycling and garbage cans lay along 1st Street in West Fargo from the high winds and rain on August 14, 2020. David Samson / The Forum


Rain continued to fall late Friday afternoon but only about a quarter to half-inch more was expected across the region as the system had moved eastward.

Gust called the light rain Friday afternoon "backwash," and expects the weather to improve dramatically this weekend.

"It's going to be beautiful," he said. The weather service expects highs in the 70s and lows at night in the 50s with plenty of sunshine.

It's expected to remain dry at least through mid-week.

Forum digital producer April Knutson contributed to this report.

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