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What’s bigger than Brett Favre? A downtown twister, but just barely

A tornado aims itself at the very church and convention center where Lutherans debate gay rights. Also: The Star Tribune gets to use its Brett Favre page, and bad times for Minnesota manufacturing.

It seemed like it was going to take an act of God Wednesday to knock Brett Favre off the front page, and so God provided, tossing the first twister to hit downtown Minneapolis since, from what we can tell, 1904. (“Favre’s only been in town one day, and already there are touchdowns” was the joke that circulated through Twitter.) Nomaan Merchant from the Star Tribune sums up the basic details: A fast-developing storm occurred in the early afternoon, and a reported tornado tore up trees and smashed windows in south Minneapolis (a slideshow of photos of the damage are available on MinnPost). There also was damage to the Electric Fetus, and whoever maintains the record store’s Twitter account almost instantly reported the event, saying, “Ok, apparently @efetusmpls was hit by a tornado. We are dealing with it now. No one was hurt. We are closing soon. I’ll keep you posted.”

The storm then barreled toward downtown, eventually striking both the Convention Center and Central Lutheran Church, where it tore part of the steeple off. Fortunately, most of the staff of the church were away for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) convention; unfortunately, as the Pioneer Press informs us, that means they were right across the street at the Convention Center. People who want to read too much into this are likely to note that, as Jeff Stricker of the Star Tribune reminds us, the ELCA was debating ending a ban on gays and lesbian clergy. In fact, as reported by the Associated Press’ Patrick Condon, the denomination approved a “social statement on human sexuality,” essentially saying that members of the church had “agreed to disagree” on the subject. The question of LGBT clergy has not yet been resolved, but it looks likely that the ban will be ended; the social statement required, and received, a supermajority to pass; ending the ban on gay clergy merely requires a simple majority.

If the tornado was a vote cast by the Almighty, however, it wasn’t an especially forceful one. As FOX9 reports, while there was a fair amount of property damage, the twister caused no fatalities, and, in fact, no reported injuries. Anyway, any claims that storms are somehow an expression of the will of the Creator are going to have to explain the case of the Feidts of Cannon Falls, as reported by KARE11. A year ago, a tornado damaged their farm, and just two weeks ago they finished repairs. Wednesday’s tornado tore the roof off their farmhouse.

Minneapolis Public Radio’s Madeleine Baran and Tom Weber look into reports that tornado sirens didn’t go off until after the tornado had already landed. “It was unreal,” they quote one resident as saying, “We could have died.” Lisa Kiava, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office, explained, saying, “There are limitations to the technology that the National Weather Service has to give us warning. There are times when weather develops very quickly that you have to use your own judgment.” The storm came up so quickly, the tornado warnings came about as a result of spotters on the ground, rather than any issuance from the National Weather Service.

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Of course, no amount of inclement weather could completely shut out Brett Favre; one expects the Star Tribune is delighted to be able to make use of their Favre page, and their stories today include stories on Favre’s passing skills (“Brett Favre was slinging bullet passes to the Vikings receivers,” they excitedly inform us), a video of Judd and Chip discussing Favre, and an article helpfully telling us that “Favre fever is in high gear.” D’ya think?

A great, swirling mass descended on New Germany Wednesday and took with it large quantities of personal property, but it wasn’t a tornado. No, it turned out to be attendees at an auction, looking for bargains on property owned by auto mogul Denny Hecker that was being sold to pay off his creditors. Nicole Garrison-Sprenger of the Pioneer Press gives a sampling of the sorts of items that were sold: “pontoon boats, Jet Skis, snowmobiles and golf clubs”; Richard Meryhew of the Star Tribune provides a little more detail, including that Hecker had golf clubs with names like “Whale Killer” and “Heavenwood”; he quotes an astounded bidder’s response to the auction: “I’ve never seen this much golf stuff at an auction. It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine one guy had all this.” Scott Golberg from KARE11 got this quote from an attendee: “I’m not looking for anything, But my husband’s looking for a, whaddya call it? A scooter!”

Bad news for manufacturing, via MPR’s Annie Baxter: The recession has been particularly bad for Minnesota’s manufacturing industry, and when the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development releases its July report today, it’s possible that the manufacturing sector might discover that it has lost jobs for 17 straight months. State economist Tom Stinson isn’t especially optimistic, either, saying, “We’re in a long-term decline for manufacturing.”

In the latest tale from the health care front, MinnPost expands on a report from Brian Beutler of TPM that the UnitedHealth Group, a managed health care and health insurance company headquartered in Minnetonka, has been, in the TPM story’s words, “urging” its employees to attend anti-health care reform tea parties. Their concern is understandable; after all, as Cenk Uygur points out on the Huffington Post, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group has three-quarters of a billion dollars in stock options.