Storm chaser killed in severe weather crash, colleague says

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A storm-chasing meteorologist died in a crash that authorities said was caused by downed power lines as severe storms brought damaging winds, heavy rain and a few reports of tornadoes to Minnesota.

The wreck on Interstate 90 in southwest Minnesota Wednesday evening killed Martha Llanos Rodriguez, of Mexico City, Mexico, when a car in which she was riding attempted to avoid the power lines on the roadway and was struck by a semi. Three others in the vehicle, including Chilean meteorologist Diego Campos, were injured.

“We were doing some storm chasing,” Campos told the Star Tribune from his hospital bed, when his car hit a power line in Nobles County. “The storm was really bad, and we were trying to get out of there.”

Campos said he and the other three weather specialists came to to know each other through professional conferences and courses.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power Thursday across southern Minnesota as hundreds of Xcel Energy employees and contractors worked to restore service. The utility company said more than 200,000 customers lost power in Wednesday night’s storm, mainly in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

More potentially severe weather was forecast for Thursday that could bring hail, high winds and tornadoes from the Dakotas and Minnesota into other parts of the Midwest, the Storm Prediction Center said.

Torrential rain flooded some streets and highways in the Twin Cities area, with several reports of vehicles stranded in the flash flooding. The soccer field at Allianz Field in St. Paul flooded, postponing Wednesday’s game between Minnesota United and Colorado. The storms also brought hail larger than golf balls to Shakopee, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Weather spotters reported several tornado sightings as the storms moved through southern Minnesota. There were no immediate reports of damage from those possible tornadoes.

Tornado warning sirens sounded across much of the Twin Cities on Wednesday night, there were no immediate reports of tornado touchdowns in the metro area.