Wind causes fire, injuries in A.L.

Published 8:44 am Friday, September 30, 2011

Albert Lea police officers and emergency crews from Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea give aid to a city worker who was hit in the head by part of a tree while cleaning up debris from a downed tree on Fountain Street Thursday afternoon. -- Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

ALBERT LEA — An Albert Lea city worker was injured Thursday afternoon after part of a downed tree fell and pinned him underneath.

The large tree had fallen across Fountain Street during a bout of heavy wind just after 1 p.m. The worker, identified as Monte Santee, was one of two called in to clear it.

Santee was cutting the tree into smaller pieces with a chainsaw when another part of the tree fell and hit him in the head, knocking him to the ground.

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He did not lose consciousness but was advised to not move before emergency responders arrived.

He was put in a neck brace and carefully lifted onto a stretcher before being transported by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea just a few blocks away.

His condition this morning is unknown.

Strong northwest winds caused that tree and others to topple Thursday, as the area was under a wind advisory. The highest sustained winds on Thursday were 29 mph, with gusts reaching 40 mph.

Other tree branches were reported down across the city and power lines were down and sparking on Freeborn County Road 26.

Around 7:30 p.m. the winds finally dropped to 14 mph and were at 9 mph at midnight.

Fire, power outage caused by wind

ALBERT LEA — A house at the intersection of Hawthorne Street and St. Jacob Avenue was damaged by fire and several homes were without power Thursday afternoon after three main power lines east of Bridge Avenue went down during heavy wind.

No one was injured.

Albert Lea Fire Capt. Mark Light said the fire, at 908 St. Jacob Ave., is still under investigation, and fire officials are still trying to determine how the incidents are related.

Firefighters were called to the intersection of the two streets around 4:15 p.m. for the downed lines, when shortly after they noticed smoke coming from the house, namely in the basement.

One occupant, Dorothy Baldwin, was inside the house at the time and was evacuated safely.

Light said firefighters could not start extinguishing the fire until Alliant Energy crews arrived at the scene to make sure the power lines were dead.

He said the basement was never fully engulfed in flames, but there was substantial damage. It has not been determined yet if the house is a total loss.

Most of the fire was contained to the basement, though there was smoke throughout the rest of the house, he noted.

The downed power lines also caused power outages starting at Marshall Street and going northward, though Light was unsure how many people were affected. The lines also affected the traffic lights at the intersections of Bridge Avenue and Marshall Street and Bridge Avenue and Hawthorne Street.