A tornado was reported to have touched down near Cromwell as strong winds and heavy rains moved through the Northland on Friday evening, knocking out power for thousands of people.

The National Weather Service in Duluth said the confirmed tornado was located 18 miles south of Big Sandy Lake at 7:19 p.m., moving northwest across the region. First responders were being called to area fire stations; there was no immediate word on any injuries or significant damage.

Meanwhile, the Weather Service said a spotter in Iron reported "torrential" rain around 7:45 p.m., with 1.5 inches falling in just a 15-minute window, creating some flash flooding in the Iron Range region. Pea-sized hail was later reported in the Ely area, the Weather Service said.

Ominous clouds loomed over downtown Duluth at sunset, with rain blowing in waves down the streets as of 8 p.m. A wind gust of 47 mph was reported at Interstate 35 and Garfield Avenue.

The I-35 corridor south of Duluth appeared to be the hardest hit by damaging winds, particularly in Carlton County.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

There were numerous reports of downed trees — some blocking roads and others striking power lines, sparking flames — along with debris flying throughout the region.

Minnesota Power had more than 4,729 customers without power due to 52 outages shortly after 9 p.m. Lake Country Power was reporting more than 3,200 members without service from 67 area outages at that same time.

"Carlton County was the hardest hit by storms in our area, with the largest outages affecting Barnum, Esko, Mahtowa and Wrenshall," Minnesota Power spokeswoman Amy Rutledge reported. "We also have some smaller scattered outages in Hermantown and Duluth.

"Our crews will be working through the night, to remove trees from power lines, restring downed power lines and replace equipment damaged by lightning and restore power."