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The National Weather Service offices involved in this collaborative web page posted a call for stories and pictures from people affected by the June 17th Tornado Outbreak in the month leading up to the one year anniversary. We received many responses, some of which are included below. The tornadoes of June 17, 2010 caused a lot of destruction, and impacted the lives of many people across the region. This is a web page highlighting just a few of those stories.

All of the stories and pictures here were used with permission. Some of the stories are posted in abridged format so that we could place as many stories and pictures on this page as possible.

If you have a story, or pictures, that you would like to share, please contact your local National Weather Service office. This will enable us to catalog as much information related to this tornado outbreak as possible.

Sonja Folger from Alexandria, Minnesota
My daughter followed the storm as it started in Douglas County. This is the picture she took near the Viking Plaza mall in Alexandria, looking towards the Leaf Valley area, where the storm started.

 

Susan Misgen from 3 miles NW of Ellendale, Minnesota

The tornado damage is visible from my office window--one went about 400 yards to the east and did major damage to the home of one of our employees. My nephew, a trained spotter for the Ellendale Fire Department, warned him and his wife that the rain-wrapped tornado was heading their way, which may have saved their lives. A former employee was saved by a cat's strange behavior (3/4 mile west of Ellendale), that took him to his basement.

That afternoon, however, this was my weather observation, from our workplace.

You could, of course, feel the "juice" in the air that you always feel when a storm is brewing. However, what was unusual was the strength of the wind and it seemed quite sustained. It was about 25% stronger than usual and, I thought, from almost directly south. I noticed it about 2:00 p.m., specifically.

I can usually predict weather by wind direction--northeast wind brings lots of rain, for example. Northwest, rain is gone. But that day last June was a distinctive weather pattern.

 

Michael Peterson (Skywarn Spotter)

On my way home, I noticed what looked like a wall cloud to the northwest as I travelled down U.S. Highway 12 to the west (a couple miles west of Delano). This would have been around 5:15 - 5:20pm. I could not tell if the cloud was rotating, however, because it looked to be quite some distance away (over ten miles).

I then went home, but then headed towards Waverly, and up Wright County Rd. 9, to follow the initial wall cloud to the northwest. I then headed back home because another storm was approaching from the southwest.

 

Matt Friedlein - NWS WFO Twin Cities/Chanhassen, MN

Working the forecast and radar desks with my colleagues at NWS Chanhassen during the high impact day of June 17th, followed by taking part in the humbling and intricate damage surveys, certainly was all a challenging and learning experience for me. When working the forecast, I recall the trends throughout the day were pointing more towards the likelihood of having tornadoes, with the potential of some of those being strong (EF-2 or higher). The counties though that were under the highest threat were tough to pin down much before storms developed, just because the atmosphere was so ripe for rotating severe storms. I recall worriedly commenting to my colleague that the Twin Cities metro area could see tornadic activity towards sunset. Having switched to the radar desk by 3 pm and after monitoring western and central Minnesota, we saw on the Doppler radar the storm rotation that would produce the Almora and Bluffton as well as the Wadena EF-4 tornadoes. It was at the point of seeing those vigorous but tight circulations that I knew this event was a different magnitude. When hearing shortly after 5 that Wadena had been struck, the concern for lives lost began to grow, and while it was impossible not to think about, I had to tell myself not to let that distract us from my role with more supercell storms developing to the southeast towards Glencoe.

The part of the damage survey I took part in was across mainly northern Freeborn County, although I did get some time to aid in the survey of the EF-4 west of Albert Lea. All in all, I have never seen such widespread significant damage between multiple tornadoes in such close proximity. It was truly saddening and made the job very, very real. A majority of the farmsteads that I visited which were heavily damaged or destroyed had residents in them at the time of the tornadoes. They had survived in basements or storm shelters, having heard or saw warnings on TV, radio, been called by a friend, or through other means. I found it interesting the multiple occasions that people had been called, or called others while seeking shelter to ensure they too had heard the warning. Even witnessing parts of the damage clean-up process I could see many helping their neighbors, which was all very moving to me.

 

Don Burgess (KC0QNA) from Green Isle, Minnesota

My family and I were going to New Ulm to umpire from Green Isle in Sibley County to suddenly come up on a nice wall cloud that would later turn into a tornado outside Glencoe and be the tornado for Buffalo and Monticello.

 

Abraham from Albert Lea, Minnesota area

On the morning of the 17th in the Albert Lea region it was very warm early in the day with southeast winds approaching 20-35 mph. I was working in the area replacing a barn roof and I recall having to quit early, around 5pm due to the gusty winds. At approximately 6:45 I began to travel north on I-35 to the town of Clarks Grove to pick up a few tools for the job site for the following day. Nearly thirty minutes later, the sky grew darker with the approaching storms. Shortly thereafter, on a rural gravel road to the north of Clarks Grove the core overtook me with large hail slightly larger than ping pong ball size prompting me to park under a willow tree.

At around 7:10pm the hail and rain began to let up and the cloud structure to the southwest became visible. The cloud structure exhibited vast rotation such that the mesocyclone was clearly visible and rapidly lowering to the ground. At this time it was apparent that a massive wall cloud was approaching, the size of which I have never seen before. Soon, the wall cloud to my southwest began to drop clear suction vorticies and they began to merge into a massive wedge tornado.

At this time, it began clear that this massive tornado was moving in a NW direction at approximately 40 mph. This prompted me to drive east away from the tornado in which I pulled into a driveway about a mile due north of Clarks Grove. Standing on the porch, the family ushered me to the porch where I told them of the approaching tornado (they did not immediately perceive the massive rotating tornado as it was so large). Now less than a mile to our west the tornado engulfed a farmstead on a north-south gravel road and completely destroyed the home, leaving no wall standing and tossing debris thousands of yards from the base of the home.

The six of us waited in the basement for nearly ten minutes as the massive wedge moved closer and closer. The power went out, and debris could be heard hitting the house. The sound closely resembled a large waterfall or a jet engine. Now approx 7:20, the sound grew softer and we went upstairs to watch to tornado move NW until a curtain of precipitation shrouded the tornado. Ten minutes later the sirens began to go off in town and another wall cloud began to rapidly approach from the southwest. In summary, the neighbor’s house was completely destroyed. The family experienced a 70% reduction in their oak forest and siding and shingles were ripped off. They were very fortunate. This June I will be bringing milk and cookies to the family for a visit and to say thank you. This event spurred an intense passion for severe weather prompting me to become a Skywarn storm spotter.

 

Kevin Matthews, McLeod County, Minnesota Emergency Management

Thinking back on the June 17th tornado outbreak in 2010, it is hard to believe that it has been one year already since this record shattering day for tornadoes on one particular day in Minnesota. This was also the first confirmed tornado that we have had in McLeod County since September 16, 2006. We were very lucky with that tornado. It touched down in a field about 1 ½ miles west of Winsted and caused some damage to a few trees, crops, and tipped over a grain trailer. The tornado touched down at approximately 5:23pm and was only on the ground for a few minutes. We also had some power lines down in Lester Prairie and a tree fell onto a car in Glencoe; although these were not from tornadoes, just winds.

We were fortunate to have our Skywarn spotters in position before the storm approached. In fact, our law enforcement tactical team was doing training that day. They cleared their training early and assisted in storm spotting.

We were also very lucky that the storm was on June 17th. Should it have happened between June 10th to 13th, it would have affected the Winstock County Music Festival where about 15,000 people and 1,000 to 2,000 campers were at this outdoor event. The tornado touched down approximately 1 ½ miles north of the festival grounds.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those across Minnesota that were affected by the storms that day. It is important to take actions now to prepare ourselves for disasters that may impact our families in the future. What a difference a day makes!

 

Amanda Wagner from Fisher, Minnesota
The first photo is of a wall cloud and a small funnel taken between 5:15 and 5:30pm looking west from about 1 mile outside of Fisher. The second photo was taken between 5:30pm and 5:45pm 0.5 miles northwest of Fisher. The last photo was taken around 5:50 to 6:05pm, and appears to capture Tornado X2. The last photo was also taken 0.5 miles northwest of Fisher.

 

Mark Schott from Fairmont, Minnesota
I live in Fairmont and my brother lives in Albert Lea. He was chasing tornadoes that day, however he kept getting caught in the rain. So he gave up and went back to Albert Lea. Then they sighted a large tornado by Keister heading to Conger and Alden, so I called him up and asked where he was. He said home. I told him he better get out west of Albert Lea because there’s a big one coming. He went out on Hwy 13, just under I90 and there it was. He snapped a few pics, but then he said it got bigger, and it scared him. He went home.

 

Sharon and Vernell from Wadena, Minnesota

My husband, Vernell, had returned from a retreat with his coworkers in Pequot Lakes in the afternoon of the 17th. We had a small rain storm come through about 9 am which increased the humidity a great deal. I work at the Wadena Police Department as a Secretary Dispatcher and was at work on June 17th, 2010.

Community leaders were to meet at 3 pm at the college to discuss if there was going to be a parade for the long awaited all school reunion. Weather forecasters stated severe storms and they were waiting themselves to see where and how severe. About 4[pm] there were reports of a tornado by Parkers Prairie, south of us. Then it was touching down at the four corners which is a mile and 3/4 from Vernell's ancestral farmhouse and traveling south east of Deer Creek towards our home in Complton Township.

I called Vernell to report that the tornado was coming towards the house and to take cover. He collected my kittys and went to the basement where he heard booms and his ears were popping like crazy due to the air pressure. He called me to say the he and the kittys were ok but the house had sustained damage, windows broken, holes in the roof and nearly every tree down including the grand dad white oak that missed the house by inches. He asked me to retrieve tarps at the local hardware store (Ace Hardware on Hwy 10) which they were closing at 5.

I was about to leave when a man called my office and said I need a safe place to go with my two nephews. I directed him to my office which is a concrete barricade building. I sent them to the basement. At this time, my officers are seeing debris in Wadena, 8 miles from my home, and a large wedge tornado coming into town from the south. One officer had his vehicle lifted into the air and they yelled for me to take cover which I did with the man and his two nephews under a stairwell. I made contact with my husband and told him I could not leave as another tornado has now hit SW Wadena. He was on the roof and sent a message to his boss to begin the mutual aid process for power utility agencies to assist Wadena.

The next 7 hours I was in Incident Command assisting my Chief, Sheriff, and other CEOs from surrounding counties and their staffs in coordinating mutual aid for law enforcement, Red Cross, National Guard Armory for displaced citizens, etc. There were over 230 homes damaged and some were total devastation including the high school building that has been condemned. The tornado directly hit the cemetery toppling stones and leaving a crucifix standing and a blue ribbon to Officer Resch who had died in the line of duty in 2005.

My husband coordinated several mutual aid power crews from Thursday to Wednesday whereby they were able to totally rebuild 51 poles to connect to houses and businesses. I am so proud of him as he worked so hard to make sure the materials and crews were able to keep moving with help of the street crews who showed up from all areas of MN to remove debris.

Vernell was able to see our house in the daylight on Wednesday afternoon where we began the list of needs and damages. The roof was secured by a titanium wrap that is used in the hurricane states and lasts 6 months but there so much air pressure that the front door is concave, as well as all the garage doors. We were extremely lucky that they held otherwise we would have had the house break apart as each neighbor to the north of us. The farther north the worse it became with owners stepping off the stairs to have the entire house and steps disappear into the wind. One neighbor had a cow drop in on them as they were in the basement; it was picked up by the 175 mph winds.

Two chainsaw crews were coordinated through the volunteer command post and showed up on Thursday to help us cut the trees in the grass area and take down the widow maker trees. We are so grateful for their help as they are experienced crews; one being a Southern Baptist disaster relief group and the other was the DNR rangers who fight fires in Minnesota.

We are thankful that we still have a home, and yes it will need work to repair it but is has been an eventful summer to say the least. In the months that have passed, most of the neighbors have returned home with new houses and planted trees as spring finally comes to us.

 

Kathy Johnson from Wadena, Minnesota

 

Don and Dee Schwartz from 2 miles north of Wadena, Minnesota

We lost 5 buildings, part of our garage and hundreds of trees in this tornado.

 

Lisa and Tim from Wadena, Minnesota

Since we got home from the clinic, Tim took Seth to the pharmacy to pick up Noah’s refill and I was eagerly waiting for him to return. Our neighbor stopped over and insisted that we put our pickup and Tim’s squad car in his extra garage – he heard there was major hail coming and knew we couldn’t squeeze them in our garage. It was still set up from the other day when Tim and the kids built 3 birdhouses. Once we were all in the basement family room, Tim camped out with his portable work radio next to the window. I was trying to comfort crabby babies as it was nearing nap or snack time or just plain freak out time.

The TV was lit up with warnings and watches and it was difficult to keep the older two busy, calm and quiet. Trying to stay focused and clam, Tim exiled me and the babies to the laundry room with the rocking chair. I so desperately wanted to see everything that was going on outside and on the TV but that wasn’t going to calm the babies down. We heard the disbelief as ambulance workers rushed to the site of an overturned vehicle and saw crossing arms of the railroad mangled. A tornado had just passed Bluffton and it sounded like we were going to be ok. Maybe I could watch the radar now....Tim opened the door so we could talk and I was hoping we could go upstairs and start supper, it was nearing 5 o’clock and nursing time. But according to the rumble on his portable we weren’t in the clear yet, there was still dark clouds brewing southwest of town.

Then we heard a weather spotter’s voice on the portable radio with panic and fear edging his voice “there’s a tornado south west of Wadena heading straight towards Tapley’s Park”. Tapley’s Park was 2 ½ blocks away and one of our favorite summer walking destinations. Tim and I just looked at each other and motioned towards our stairway shoe closet. We threw all the shoes out and the kids crawled in with their sleeping bags.

We told them to get inside their sleeping bags while Tim and I each had a baby and hunkered down next to them. Tim shoved the other baby into my arms and quickly went to grab something. As he came back, he shut the door and sat opposite of me with his knees and baby to his chest. I was surprisingly cool, calm and collect – everything would be ok – Tim was home and not out working. But as those words of the weather spotter echoed through my head, I recalled the tornadoes that swept through Hugo a year earlier and thought with sinking realization that we would be all over the state news. I wondered if I should lay on top of my kids, but with such cramped positions, it was hard to move and part of me was still in denial. Then it hit.

I cannot describe the loudness and the fury that we heard the next several seconds. For the first time all afternoon, even Seth was quiet. I could hear glass shattering and objects hitting the house. We were under our staircase in the interior of our home, but the crashes and bangs were intense. Tim breathed “our house is gone” but even then I thought he was exaggerating. But then my ears started popping and the babies were silenced.

As the loudness continued, Tim reached up to grab the door handle of our wimpy hollow core door as it started rattling and just like that, it was over. For a moment I was confused and considered us to be in the “eye” of the storm…how could it be over so quickly? Tim handed a baby off to me and went to survey the damage. I half expected him to open the door and be able to see the sky. He stumbled over the shoe disaster and headed upstairs and panicked emotion filled his voice “we’re the only house left standing on the block.” It couldn’t be, how could we be so lucky. But as I tripped up the stairs with the older two trailing me, it was unbelievable. It was devastating. Half a block down was a disaster zone.

The sunlight was pouring in on our neighbor’s vehicles, still in their garage and wrapped in debris and insulation. The roof on half of their house was missing, not moved or tipped off like you would bump a Lincoln log building, but missing. Trees, branches, power lines, everything seemed to be where it shouldn’t – nothing looked the same. Our next door neighbor’s trailer was leaning up against another neighbor’s house like Paul Bunyan stopped by and picked it up by the hitch and neatly placed up against the garage. It was difficult to see out our windows, they were still intact, but plastered with leaves, water and debris.

Within minutes of making sure our house was secure, Tim was dressed in uniform and heading out the door, down the block to see who needed help. Minutes after he left the staggering sound of firetrucks, ambulances and sirens flooded the air. The city mechanic from down the street drove up in his van and hollered if we needed help – he couldn’t see that two houses down they were missing their roof. He swung by, picked them up and deposited them in our house. The crawl space they had occupied now reeked of natural gas. Our power, somehow, was still on and I was able to get a hold of my mom on the phone almost immediately. I was too shocked to break down, but she said she was on her way over. Ella stumbled around with her hand over her mouth and it was all I could do to hold it together.

At the farm, I couldn’t sleep. Images, sounds and raw memories kept haunting my head. How were the neighbors? Our Friends? Who was injured? What were we going to do? Finally I called Tim about 6 in the morning. He slept just as well as me...except he had to go back out there again. The southwest was the worst part hit. The tornado essentially followed 7th/8th street north through town. He said it was unimaginable. If I wanted to come back, I’d have to stop and get a pass from the courthouse and he’d lead me the safest way home.

The rest of that summer was a mish mash of packing the kids up and leaving on a moment’s notice. It was hard for the babies to nap when your house is vibrating from a new roof being put on. We escaped to Sunnybrook Park many times, it seemed a world away from the damage. But when you drove in and away you could see the thousands of loads that the dump trucks had deposited, in seemingly orderly fashion.

Our once secluded backyard was now open to the world. Gawkers continued to swarm the streets and planes or helicopters continued to pollute the blue sky. The drone of heavy machinery continued. We brought their bikes to the farm to escape the madness. We also found refuge in a city pool in the next town over. Ironically I had wanted to wait for swimming lessons until Seth and Ella could do them together but Seth was too young yet for the Wadena pool...and then it dawned on me that we no longer had a Wadena pool and the future of that being repaired was very uncertain. So we signed them up in New York Mills and that was a welcome excuse to escape the house every day for two weeks.

One of our most amazing stories, is my robin one. Early in the spring, a robin had decided to turn one of my flower boxes on my deck railing into its home. We watched with eagerness from our house as she would carry sticks, grass and other gems to build her new home. What a great opportunity to watch! Sure enough the nest was created and in a few weeks, three beautiful blue robin eggs appeared. The robin couple took turns protecting their eggs, even after we scolded Seth for his hands on observation. Then the tornado happened and there was chaos everywhere. Our glass patio table top had been sucked off and vanished, there was a large tree coming out of our deck, but those three eggs remained unscathed and unharmed. But mama and papa robin never returned. A blue jay eventually stole those eggs and the unused nest became property of Seth and Ella. But now, a year after that robin started building a nest, we believe she has returned. There’s been a robin scoping out my flower boxes again, but has decided against making it her home again.

 

Ryan Korkowski from Wadena, Minnesota

 

Tracy from Wadena, Minnesota

Our daughter just flew home from Chapel Hill, NC where she's going to college for pharmacy. We arrived home in Wadena from the airport at 1:00 am on 6/17/10. It would have been Chassy's 5th class reunion, and she had made plans to attend with other classmates. We were just starting to shop in Walmart that afternoon when the employees huddled everyone to the middle of the store. We stood around forever it seemed like; maybe 45 min. They started passing out cookies and water to everyone and people were getting restless. Then the employees started rushing around faster, making people get their kids out of the carts and having everyone sit on the floor. Then they came around with new blankets for everyone to shelter themselves, so we knew they meant business. I remember telling my daughter to be ready if the tornado started ripping through the store because I was going to lay on top of her to protect her. We heard the winds pick up and it started hailing hard. Luckily it just missed Walmart. My husband rushed to the store to see if we were okay; he had seen the tornado out his back door at his business on the southeast end of town, but his business was spared. We knew many people who lost their homes that day, but thankfully, they were all okay. Needless to say, my daughter's very first class reunion was cancelled.


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