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Photo by Rachelle Klemme Louie Roggenkamp of Sebeka Public Works takes a buzz saw to a damaged tree during storm cleanup. The Sebeka Park lost four trees and was one of the hardest hit areas of the community during the July 4 storm. A tornado warning was issued, affecting mostly central Wadena County. But as of Thursday, the National Weather Service had not determined whether damage was from a tornado or straight line winds.

Heat wave, storms batter Wadena County

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A sustained heat wave followed by a round of storms hit much of Minnesota, and Wadena County was no exception.

The county received its first 2012 tornado warning the evening of July 4 as lightning bolts overwhelmed fireworks in the night sky.

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The warning impacted mostly the central area of the county, with Sebeka, Blue Grass, Nimrod and Oylen cited as being in the path of the storm between 8:50 and 9:25 p.m.

Jeff Makowski of the National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Forks said power line and tree damage was reported in Sebeka and 1.75-inch hail was reported in Menahga.

NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Greg Gust said Thursday afternoon that since resources were being devoted to Monday storm aftermath in the Bemidji and Park Rapids areas, no survey team was in Wadena County to determine whether an actual tornado happened while the area was under a tornado warning Wednesday evening.

Sebeka Public Works Superintendent Tom Hoppe, who worked on storm cleanup at the Sebeka Park by the Red Eye River, said the park seemed to have taken the brunt of the damage from the July 4 storms.

Trees and branches were down, and the wood sign by the Lions shelter was snapped apart.

The Sebeka area also took damage Monday night.

Ricky Schoenbauer from southeast of Sebeka said about 15 trees around his house were knocked down in different directions. The house itself didn't take significant damage, but gutters were ripped off and some shingles were missing.

The destruction happened about 11:30 p.m., a few hours after the storm that shut down phone lines and caused other infrastructure damage in Bemidji.

"This was later, after the first wave," Schoenbauer said.

Gust said the Sebeka area took microburst damage Monday night, which was similar to what happened in Bemidji but on a smaller scale.

The heat wave during the week had a more subtle impact on the area.

Ivan Reinke, Natural Resources Conservation Service technician for Wadena County, said he visited farms Monday morning, and crops were stressed - not destroyed, but taking some damage from heat and lack of moisture.

Wadena Public Works Director Ron Bucholz said city crews started early and went home early the first week of July to beat the heat, and that use of the wading pool was up.

However, Bucholz said the heat did not appear to interfere much with peoples' Fourth of July plans, and as of Tuesday no one had canceled campground or shelter reservations due to heat.

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