Lightning strikes church as storms move through Minnesota

Published 10:25 am Monday, July 25, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — A band of severe weather swept through the Twin Cities on Saturday, bringing heavy rain and high winds, while lightning was blamed for a church fire in Sacred Heart.

Fire officials say Hawk Creek Lutheran Church in Sacred Heart was struck by lightning Saturday morning. KARE-TV reported it took firefighters several hours to put out the flames.

The Star Tribune reported that firefighters dealt with three fires in Bloomington and a fourth in Edina, and authorities were investigating whether they were also started by lightning.

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In Minneapolis, visitors who were lined up to tour U.S. Bank Stadium during Saturday’s open house were quickly ushered inside as the sky grew dark. The National Weather Service said winds gusted up to 50 mph.

Several areas were at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall.

In the northern part of the state, residents and resort owners are still recovering from a Thursday storm that killed two campers near Ely. The victims, a 13-year-old boy and a 29-year-old woman, were camping with a Texas Boy Scout troop.

That storm downed trees and knocked out power to tens of thousands. Minnesota Power’s website indicated thousands were still without power on Saturday afternoon.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports the Ely resort industry was hit hard and struggling to find places for vacationers. Ely Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cherie Sonsalla said some resorts were closed, and those that remained open were booked to capacity.

“Most places are full this time of year,” she said. “We’ve been calling around, finding places that maybe have one cabin open.”

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area remains open to campers. The U.S. Forest Service posted on its website that visitors are still welcome, despite widespread damage.

“Visitors are cautioned to take extra care when choosing a campsite,” the Forest Service warned, “Look for hanging tops or leaning trees. Assess root systems for weakness.”

Brainerd, Duluth, Hinckley and surrounding areas were under a flash flood watch on Saturday. That watch stretched into parts of western Wisconsin, including Hayward and Ironwood.