Meteorologists rank tornado an EF2

Published 10:50 am Friday, June 19, 2009

On Thursday, meteorologists from the National Weather Service took a closer look at the destruction caused by a tornado that ravaged areas of Austin Wednesday night.

Todd Shea, NWS meteorologist, said the tornado has been considered an EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale that’s used to determine the strength of tornadoes.

Shea said the scale is based on wind speeds and spans from a rating of EF0, with winds that range from 65 to 85 mph, to an EF5, with winds at more than 200 mph.

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With a range of EF2, Shea estimated the wind speeds of Austin’s tornado at between 111 to 135 mph.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) during the day, we weren’t expecting tornadoes or severe weather,” Shea said.

“But in the early evening, we started thinking there was a chance.”

According to NWS reports, the tornado hit Austin from 8 to 8:23 p.m. and measured about 10 miles long with a maximum width of 120 yards.

The worst damage from the storm occurred three miles north of downtown Austin near the intersection of 243rd Street and Fourth Street NW.

Shea said there was also a tornado around the LeRoy area, which was most likely an EF0.

Minnesota has about 24 tornadoes a year, Shea said, most of which are on the EF0 to EF1 scale, with an EF2 or higher fairly rare.

NWS records show the last time Minnesota was struck with an EF4 or greater tornado was on July 25, 2000, when a twister touched down in Granite Falls.

Shea said the peak tornado season is in May and June.

Ideal tornado conditions are “usually warm temperatures, humid air and strong winds,” he said.