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Upper Midwest hit by hurricane-force storm

5 dead; hundreds of thousands without power

May 31, 1998
Web posted at: 8:56 p.m. EDT (0056 GMT)

(CNN) -- A storm front packing hurricane-force winds blew through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan early Sunday, killing at least five people, injuring more than 100 and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

The storm then skipped across the Great Lakes and slammed into upstate New York, where it spawned a suspected tornado Sunday afternoon nearly Stillwater, about 20 miles north of Albany. There were reports of collapsed houses and multiple injuries but no immediate reports of fatalities.

In Michigan, winds clocked as high as 90 mph left 600,000 utility customers without power at one point. Utility officials say it could be Wednesday or later before all of the lights come back on.

"It's ugly," said Jon Hall, a spokesman for Consumers Energy. "We have numerous downed wires, trees on lines, just any kind of problem you can imagine from a weather event is out there."

A woman was killed in Pinconning, about 100 miles north of Detroit, when a tree fell on her house. A man camping at Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin died when a tree fell on his tent. And a utility worker died in Grand Haven when he accidentally touched a downed power line. About 100 others were injured.

The severe winds also snapped in half all four gates on the Saginaw River drawbridge in Bay City and broke a gas main.

2 dead in Wisconsin

A Bay City, Michigan, resident inspects the damage to her car  

In Wisconsin, wind gusts of 107 mph were reported in Dodge County in the central part of the state. Some 2,000 people had to be evacuated in South Milwaukee after a falling tree limb apparently broke a valve on a 30,000-gallon propane gas tank, said Fire Department Capt. Joseph Knitter.

One woman died in Washington County, in southeastern Wisconsin, when a tree fell on her house. There was also a fatality in Lafayette County when an all-terrain vehicle crashed into a downed tree.

Between 65,000 and 100,000 customers in southeastern Wisconsin were without power Sunday, said Wisconsin Electric Power Co. spokeswoman Mary Carpenter. She said it could be Tuesday before all of the power is restored.

"This is the worst outage, the worst storm, that we've seen in at least 12 years. This is a bad one," she said.

Large hail hits Minnesota

Parts of Minnesota, where nearly 300,000 people lost power at one point, were hit with hail up to 1 3/4 inches in diameter. A man in Coates was injured when his mobile home was blown away. He was found about 200 feet away in a field.

At least 80 homes were damaged in the St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, where eight people were treated for minor injuries.

"When you see the condition of some of the homes, it's pretty surprising" there weren't more serious injuries, said Barry Johnson, city administrator.

In western New York, the storm produced heavy rain, lightning, hail and winds gusting to 80 mph, causing widespread power outages. The apparent tornado struck near Stillwater at about 4:15 p.m.

Correspondent Ed Garsten contributed to this report.

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