SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A tornado moving through southeast South Dakota tore through south and central Sioux Falls late Tuesday night, leaving a trail of damaged buildings, power lines and trees in its wake.
Thirty-seven structures collapsed or have structural integrity issues because of "tornadic activity" and winds greater than 100 mph, according to authorities. There were a few reports of injuries, but there were not any reported fatalities or serious injuries due to the storm, Mayor Paul TenHaken said.
A tornado warning was issued for Sioux Falls at 11:27 p.m. CT, Todd Heitkamp, lead meteorologist at NWS Sioux Falls said.
One tornado touched down briefly at 11:28 a.m. just east of the O'Gorman campus and tracked across 41st Street southeast into the Western Mall area, where it caused significant damage to the Plaza 41 shopping center, including Pizza Ranch. It went on to damage Advanced Auto Parts and Best Buy. The twister was measured an EF-2 with peak winds of 125 mph. Nobody was injured in that tornado.
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A damage survey will be conducted Wednesday, which will confirm whether a tornado caused the damage, will help determine how many tornadoes touched down and how strong the system was going through Sioux Falls. The suspected twister would be the first in Sioux Falls since 1989.
The majority of damage probably was caused by strong straight-line winds, Heitkamp said.
Sioux Falls, with an estimated population of 187,200, is about 240 miles southwest of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A tornado moving through the south section of Sioux Falls late at night when it's dark is a "nightmare scenario" for Heitkamp. But each of the National Weather Service's alert systems worked, he said.
"This just shows you that the people of Sioux Falls, the people around the area, need to have multiple methods to get information," he said.
Some tornado sirens went off around the city, but not all went off, said Mayor Paul TenHaken. TenHaken said there was a "breach of protocol" in the city's outdoor warning siren system, which only sounded sirens in the southwest part of the city.
The 911 dispatch center responsible for signaling the tornado warning sirens in Sioux Falls didn't follow protocol, resulting in only a quarter of the city hearing outdoor warning sirens before a tornado touched down Tuesday night.
The 77-horn siren system in Sioux Falls is intended to be activated city-wide when a tornado is expected to touch down in Sioux Falls. But when Metro Communication got the alert from the National Weather Service that hazardous weather was imminent, an employee in the dispatch center only activated sirens in the southeast quadrant of the city, TenHaken said.
The Fire Department said the area of Sioux Falls that received the greatest impact was bordered by 26th Street on the north and 85th Street on the south between Marion Road and Cliff Avenue
According to Eric Paulie, a representative with Xcel Energy, as many as 25,000 customers were without power at one point because of the damage. About 7,600 customers were still without power as of 6:30 a.m. CT, with more than 200 outages reported.
The Red Cross opened a shelter at 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday at the Armory at the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds for people displaced by the storm, according to Sioux Falls Fire Rescue.
For those interested in volunteer efforts, the city will partner with the Helpline Center to streamline those opportunities. Tree drop off locations for downed trees from the storm will be near Chambers Street and Cliff Avenue and north of 12th Street and Lyons Avenue. Other debris from the damage can be dropped off at the landfill, free of charge through September, said Mark Cotter, director of public works.
Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted that she has been in contact with TenHaken and will be in Sioux Falls on Wednesday afternoon to speak with authorities on how the state can help.
Sioux Falls schools opened after a two-hour delay because of downed power lines throughout town, according to a news release.
Two flights were diverted from the Sioux Falls Regional Airport on Tuesday night but came in late, according to officials.
All flights are planned to arrive and depart at their originally scheduled times on Wednesday, said Dan Letellier, executive director for the Sioux Falls Regional Airport.
Crews responded to a handful of structure collapses and torn off roofs in Sioux Falls — some of them have been rescues for people trapped under the structural collapses. Downed powerlines and trees was preventing emergency responder traffic in much of south Sioux Falls, according to scanner traffic overnight.
Several traffic lights were also out around Sioux Falls. Cotter advised that drivers treat broken traffic lights as a four-way stop and to leave for work earlier than usual.
Businesses in southern Sioux Falls damaged
The tornado ripped off part of the Avera Behavioral Health Hospital's roof and caused significant damage to the building's windows, said 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 experienced damage to its lobby and windows, but all patients are safe, Pellman said. She said people should stay away from the area because of flooding and debris concerns.
Several businesses were damaged as well, including a wall collapse at an Advanced Auto Parts.
Lincoln County Emergency Manager Harold Timmerman said he is not aware of any significant storm damage outside of Sioux Falls city limits, but further assessments would be done. Timmerman, the Minnehaha County emergency manager and the Sioux Falls emergency manager were all out of town during the storm.
A tornado warning was also issued for areas northeast of Sioux Falls, including Garretson until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Heitkamp said there were also reports of a tornado near Tea as well on Tuesday, but it hasn't been confirmed.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota tornado: No deaths as Sioux Falls hit with tornado