SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A tornado ripped through Sioux Falls late Tuesday night, Sept. 10, cutting open hospitals and businesses and downing trees and power lines. There were no initial reports of injuries.
The twister tore through the south side of the city just before midnight, centered on West 41st Street, the city’s busiest commercial corridor. It flipped cars, twisted and toppled signs light poles and pulled the face and roof off several businesses.
The tornado also damaged several hospitals on the south side of the city including the Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota and the adjacent Avera Behavioral Health Center. Both facilities sustained structural damage. The tornado blew out the heart hospital’s front doors, many windows and the emergency room bay doors, snapping large trees in half and throwing them into cars in the parking lot outside.
Some patients were transferred from the Behavioral Health Center to the heart hospital, while nearby residents pitched in to help move patients, clear wrecked cars and road debris and direct health care providers rushing to the scene.
Sioux Falls police issued a no-travel advisory due to downed power lines and trees, and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the city. As of 2:30 a.m., Xcel Energy reported about 9,000 customers in the city without power.
The smell of leaking natural gas permeated the air along one badly beaten stretch of West 41st Street just east of Kiwanis Avenue. The streets were alive with emergency vehicles cutting downed trees and checking damaged buildings and power lines. Numerous city emergency vehicles were staged in a parking lot outside of the Scheel’s store nearby.
Mayor Paul TenHaken said the city had suffered “significant” damage, with many people without power. In a video posted to his Twitter account, he asked residents to stay off the roads and avoid calling the city’s overloaded 911 center unless there was a real emergency.
“Say a prayer for our city, if you would,” he said.
TenHaken and other officials are expected to provide an update on the tornado damage to media at 5 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11.
This story will be updated.