FORADA, Minn. — The tornado sounded like a train barreling down the tracks — a whirring that turned to a steady roar as it shredded homes and uprooted trees.
"It was ugly," Forada Fire Chief Stephen VanLuik said Tuesday after the Memorial Day storm that brought heavy rain, bouts of hail and powerful winds to west-central Minnesota.
Before the tornado struck Forada — a Douglas County community of about 170 residents south of Alexandria — the storm had raced across Minnesota at speeds of more than 70 mph.
"Here, it touched down and stayed down — and raised a lot of havoc," VanLuik said.
Drizzly rain and cold wind gusts continued Tuesday as residents, neighbors and crews started cleaning up. The small neighborhood near the east shores of Maple Lake was nearly leveled. Farther east, across a set of railroad tracks, remnants of roofs and buildings littered the fields.
"We pretty much lost every tree on the lot," said Brad Brezina, who lives on a farm that's been in the family for nearly 90 years. "But down by the lake, it looks like a war zone."
The destruction stretched from Appleton and Milan in the far western part of the state to Deer River more than 200 miles to the north.
At least one tornado was confirmed in Forada, said meteorologist Joe Calderone of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. Later, the Weather Service said a survey team confirmed EF-2 damage with max winds of 120 mph in Forada, with evidence of multiple vortexes and a path width of at least a half mile.
He said the Weather Service has sent teams to the areas around Appleton and Milan, and Lester Prairie and Plato west of the Twin Cities to determine if tornadoes struck there, too.
It's possible twisters also hit Trosky and Jasper in far southwestern Minnesota near the South Dakota border, the Weather Service said.
The storms, Calderone said, "were destructive."
Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was already touring the state to survey damage caused by high winds and rains earlier in May.
Petersen predicted the storm damage will qualify for federal disaster relief, which would pave the way for additional funds for cleanup and repairs.
In southwestern Minnesota, Bryan Biegler, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said his neighbors lost sheds and part of a hog building outside Slayton.
In Forada, the storm damaged nearly 100 structures and toppled many power lines, said Julie Anderson, emergency management director in Douglas County.
High winds Tuesday blew debris through the air, making the community on the east shore of Maple Lake unsafe, Anderson said. She had no damage estimates yet as reports were still coming in.
At least 20 homes in neighboring Hudson Township and another home in nearby Nelson also were damaged.
"That's the amazing part," said VanLuik, the fire chief. "To see the damage and people aren't hurt? It's a miracle."
The area was still recovering from storms May 12, including a tornado that struck 8 miles away in Alexandria. And Monday's deluge only added to the area's soggy farm fields and flooded ditches. Extensive property damage was reported in and near Eagle Bend, where grain bins and storage sheds were damaged, the Todd County Sheriff's Office reported. Trees also fell on homes.
No injuries or deaths were reported in the small community. But many roads were impassible, and power could be out for up to 48 hours, the Sheriff's Office said.
By Tuesday afternoon, things were improving, said Mike Wisniewski, Todd County's emergency management director.
"The city of Eagle Bend and townships are in recovery mode and cleaning up," he said. "The city has everything under control.
Though a tornado was not confirmed, the damage "was likely tornadic," the Weather Service said.
In Deer River, Police Chief Brian Castellano had just finished his Memorial Day shift and from his home watched the gray sky turn green. Then the wind "cranked up instantly and it sounded like a train," he said.
He said he watched as debris 40 to 50 feet in the air blew past his home. Castellano, whose house was damaged in a 2016 tornado, said his escaped this time, but other property owners were not to lucky. Garages in the northeastern section of the city were pushed off their foundations; homes had roofs ripped off, and decks were blown away.
In the downtown, a funeral home and the post office were heavily damaged, and a furniture store "will likely have to come down," Castellano said. At the Lundeen softball fields,the concession stand is gone and parts of it were found 100 yards away in the woods, he said.
"There will be insurance claims today," Castellano said.
Star Tribune writer Christopher Vondracek contributed to this report.