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City officials count blessings after massive wind storm

By Garrett Ammesmaki

Jenna Fisher captured this view of the approaching storm from Long Creek Mobile Home Park, Southwest corner of Lennox.

The storm surge that pummeled Eastern South Dakota this last Thursday brought damages that spurred Gov. Kristi Noem to declare a state of emergency, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

While some areas saw wind speeds up to 107 mph, at least two deaths, extensive property damage, and the destruction of a Lincoln County construction site, the City of Lennox got off rather unscathed by the surge.

There were brief power outages in the area, but the worst damage, in terms of private property, was a tree that fell on a house off Main Street, according to City Administrator Nathan Vander Plaats. There were also many houses that lost shingles, and D&D Small Engine Repair suffered a collapsed roof.

In terms of the worst damage to public property, the Lennox administrative car lost its back window.

“We’re counting our blessings,” Vander Plaats said.

The exact cost of damages is currently unclear, but an adjuster is on their way to assess the extent of damage to the city.

City officials believe the lack of destruction is largely tied to the tornado that struck Lennox on Aug. 28 of last year.

Any trees that would have come down during Thursday’s storm, were most likely taken out during that tornado, Vander Plaats said.

While Lennox was largely spared, a new construction for the county’s 4-H program was completely demolished by the storm, according to 4-H Program Advisor Wendy Sweeter.

Sweeter is also a contributor to The Lennox Independent.

The framing for the future show ring, located just north of Lennox on Highway 17, was started April 18, but paused due to weather, Sweeter said.

It was slated to be finished by July 1, and the final rafter of the frame was up when last weeks’ storm took the entire build apart.

Cleary Construction is in charge of the project, and the damage will require a complete redoing of the footings, according to Sweeter. There was a stack of materials nearby that were completely untouched.

“These storms are nuts,” Sweeter said. While the frame of the building was destroyed, “everything else was fine.”

The show ring was the first in a five building project, Sweeter said. The other four buildings will be for animal housing, though they have yet to reach their fundraising goals, so construction has not started.

It took around two years of fundraising to finance the roughly $178,000 show ring. Though the exact cost of the damage is yet to be calculated, Sweeter believes insurance will cover all damages.

A new completion date is yet to be announced, and largely depends on the availability of materials, according to Sweeter.

While winds were estimated to be around 80 mph in Lennox and nearby areas, Tripp, SD, saw winds up to 107 mph, according to the National Weather Service Sioux Falls.

Thursday’s severe thunderstorm was considered a “particularly dangerous situation,” according to the NWS Sioux Falls twitter.

At least two deaths have been attributed to the storm by local news outlets, including a woman who was struck by flying debris while in her car on the interstate.

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