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Tornadoes strike west of Austin

Update 3: Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office said that the governor planned to visit the storm-damaged Albert Lea area on Friday morning. Pawlenty’s office issued this statement from the governor: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost in the severe storms that swept across our state this evening. Our emergency management officials have been working closely with local officials and we stand ready to assist in every way needed. Tomorrow we will visit the areas hit hardest by these tornadoes to ensure that the response is swift and comprehensive.”

Update 2: The National Weather Service’s severe thunderstorm warning for Mower County expired at 9:30 p.m., although the high winds and heavy rain continued in some parts of the county and more storms are possible throughout the night.

Reports indicated that as the storms moved east, high winds hit Rochester and damaged homes.

Update 1: Severe thunderstorm warning for Mower County until 9:30 p.m. Severe thunderstorms moving through the county, expected to be near Grand Meadow about 9 p.m. and Leroy around 9:10 p.m., National Weather Service reports. Spotters are keeping an eye on low-hanging clouds just west of Austin. Heavy rain midway between Austin and Blooming Prairie.

One year to the day after a twister tore through Austin, causing extensive damage, tornadoes have hit Albert Lea and other Freeborn County communities, causing extensive damage to homes and other property. There were reports, as well, of people injured.

The worst of the storms, moving from southwest to northeast, stayed just west of Austin, which appeared as of 8 p.m. to be on the edge of the bad weather. A second storm cell was reported to be tracking behind the first, but on a more northerly path. Reports of that cell’s direction of travel were not consistent, however.

At 7:45 p.m., the National Weather Service reported, “Doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm about 20 miles northwest of Austin, Minn. This storm may produce hail up to an inch in diameter near Waltham and Lansing but the worst weather looks to remain west and north of Mower County for the time being.”