A strong thunderstorm swept through Owatonna around 5PM Tuesday, forcing some Night to Unite block parties to be held inside garages, but many gatherings continued.

The annual event is promoted by the Owatonna Police Department to strengthen neighborhood spirit, heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and generate support for local crime prevention activities. Local law enforcement officers make appearances at the registered parties to answer questions and ask for public opinion on matters.

As I drove around town after the storm, I saw a number of parties assembled inside garages along with several that were just setting up outdoor activities. Rain had started to fall again with thunder rumbling in the distance as I made my way through northern parts of town. I saw one couple scurrying along in raincoats with chairs slung over their shoulders.

Many small branches and limbs littered the roads after the strong wind from the storm, along with at least one tree down blocking a city street near the Pillsbury campus.

The Owatonna Police Department recently announced a rise in firearms thefts from homes and vehicles. In the news release, officials encourage residents to take steps to protect firearms, "never leave them in unlocked and unattended vehicles. Gun owners should record serial numbers, maintain photographs and an accurate description." They also suggest using care and keeping accurate details about tools, electronics and jewelry.