LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — A weak tornado that struck the Minnesota National Guard’s Camp Ripley could have caused a lot more problems if it had hit on the weekend, a camp spokesman said.

About 100 soldiers were in buildings damaged during Wednesday night’s storm. No one was hurt, but if the tornado had happened on the weekend, four times as many military personnel would have been on the base for drills.

Many of the soldiers recently trained for a tornado, the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/2bYsSCH ) reported.

“Nobody panicked,” the camp spokesman, Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey, said. “Everyone just stayed calm and got out of the way.”

Officials were assessing the damage from the tornado, which stripped roofs and paneling off buildings as it tore through the central Minnesota camp about 10:30 p.m. The National Weather Service says the EF1 tornado packed winds of up to an estimated 90 mph.

The training base that encompasses 53,000 acres has a siren alert system connected to Morrison County’s. However, the county was not tracking any severe storms, so the sirens did not sound, Housey said.

The storm caused major damage to several buildings used for housing, training and maintenance. The tornado also damaged a nearly complete $25 million solar array on the site. Minnesota Power, which is building the project, had planned to install the final panels this past week. About a quarter of the 97 rows of solar panels were damaged. A celebration of the project’s completion that was planned for Sept. 16 will be postponed until spring.

“It was pretty unforgiving,” Housey said.

But the storm should not cause any major disruption to the camp’s training schedule. Camp Ripley has tin huts that can be used to house soldiers during warmer months while the barracks are being replaced, Housey said.


Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com