Severe Storms and Tornado: March 19, 2012

On March 19, 2012 a line of strong to severe thunderstorms moved north across portions of southern and central Minnesota. The reports received were primarily of strong winds however there was also a report of a tornado that touched down near the town of Elysian in Waseca County. The National Weather Service storm damage survey team later confirmed the report as an EF-0 tornado along with downburst winds. Their report is found below and can also be seen through the National Weather Service from a summary they produced about the storm.

Storm Damage Survey Information from Northern Waseca County and Southern Le Sueur County (March 19, 2012 storm)

A National Weather Service storm damage survey team assessed damage that occurred on the evening of Monday, March 19, 2012, from Northern Waseca County into Southern Le Sueur County.

Event: A combination of tornado and downburst winds of EF-0 strength

Location: The tornado touched down just south of Elysian Lake Road, just south of 412th Avenue in northern Waseca County. The tornado progressed north for approximately 2 miles while paralleling the eastern shore of Lake Elysian and East Elysian Lake Road, before crossing Lake Elysian near 427th Avenue. From there, the tornado passed across the western edge of the town of Elysian before going across the eastern tip of Lake Francis. From the Shoreview area north of the town of Elysian, the tornado continued north for approximately 4 more miles, paralleling Le Sueur County Road 11. The last bit of damage noted along the path was around St Peter's Church, along County Road 12.

Path Length: Approximately 7 miles

Damage: Damage noted with this event was primarily to evergreen trees. Most damage to structures was confined to shingles and soffits on roofs. The most significant structural damage occurred at a farmstead and shed along East Elysian Lake Road in northern Waseca County. At the farmstead, several trees were uprooted or snapped on the property, while a metal equipment shelter had a section of the building blown in. About one-quarter mile north of this house along East Elysian Lake Road, the southern wall of a storage shed was blown in, causing the shed to collapse. In the western section of Elysian, two small empty grain bins were blown into an adjoining field, with a small shed at a nearby house blown across Highway 60. This structural damage, along with the tree damage noted, is consistent with wind speeds of around 80 mph, which is at the high end of an EF-0 rating (EF-1 rating begins at 86 mph)

North of Lake Francis, the damage pattern became much more complex, as the tornado began to interact with strong downburst winds. This caused the damage foot print at times to grow to as much as a mile wide. Most of the damage from Lake Francis to St Peter's Church was tree damage, though numerous boat docks and lifts along the northern shore of the lake were picked-up and moved in the winds. In the neighborhood directly north of the lake off of Willow Point Drive, most homes sustained some degree of roof damage, with a large neighborhood playset blown over and spread across the area. Much of this damage was associated with the downburst. Between Cedar Point Road and St Peter's Church, there was spotty tree damage. Near the church, several large trees were snapped or uprooted, with trees and greenhouses near the church sustaining damage.

Timing: Based on radar and damage reports, the tornado touched down around 625 PM CDT, and lifted up around 635 PM CDT.

Additional damage: sporadic wind damage was seen from the terminus of the tornado to the north across the rest of Le Sueur County to the town of Union Hill. This damage was associated with straight line winds of approximately 50 mph. These winds caused sporadic areas of wind damage across Scott County, the western Twin Cities metro area, and as far north as Cambridge.

Climatology: This is the second earliest date a tornado has been reported in Minnesota history. According to the Minnesota State Climatologist, the only tornado that occurred at an earlier date in the year in Minnesota occurred on March 18, 1968. This tornado was near Truman, which is north of Fairmont.