It was June 16, 1992 when my world was literally turned upside down. Just over 25 years ago, two sets of tornados ripped into my community and Clarkfield was literally torn apart from one side of the community to the other.
A half-dozen people received minor injuries in Clarkfield, trees were uprooted, houses destroyed and lives thrown into disarray. Minnesota National Guard troops were sent in to guard the destruction and I recall having to produce an identification to get to my home.
This was a tornado that hardly anyone outside of our community even knew happened. In Chandler and Lake Wilson, 25 troops were securing the area and providing traffic control and all the media attention turned to those two communities.
Yet, another 27 were in Clarkfield helping with portable generators and water trucks because the town’s sewage system had backed up after a power failure.
While the attention turned to Chandler and Lake Wilson, we were battling the same problems. The Red Cross and Salvation Army moved in to provide food, shelter, clothing and other forms of assistance.
The horror story began in the afternoon when a tornado ripped through the area just west of town, leaving one of the two-story farm homes “upside down,” still on its foundation.
I, with many hundreds others, rushed to the farmsite to take photos. It was an unbelievable scene — a home completely upside down.
The tornado ripped it off its foundation, turned it upside-down and placed it back on its foundation, with only a fallen tree to hold it from falling over.
Cars filed along Highway 95, as far as the eye could see, just to see the “upside down house.” I got my photos and hurried back to work at the newspaper in Granite Falls.
My only thought was of covering the damage that storm had done. It hit us and I figured it was over. Little did I know what was to come.
That evening the night got black, I settled back in my Clarkfield home and began to watch my favorite team on TV — the Minnesota Twins. Then, suddenly the air was filled with sound and the TV went black. My wife shot off her seat and began to yell, “Get in the basement,” she said.
We could hear the sound and knew a tornado was about to hit us for the second time in one day. Earlier, some lost homes moved but many had been spared substantial property damage.
The storm was marching through the southern portion of the state and later it would be reported many thousands of homes would lose power. We lost ours as we grabbed a flashlight and headed under the stairs in the basement for what we hoped would be the safest place in the house.
We waited for what seemed like hours, but which in reality were only moments. I could smell “soot” and I figured the old chimney on the house was now gone.
The storm itself seemed still and I wondered if our house above us was gone or in a shambles. I climbed slowly to the top of the stairs and crouched low as I opened the door, half expecting my home to be gone.
I was surprised — it was still there. But some of the windows were gone and damage had been done to the home. It was an unbelievable relief.
My wife and I looked in horror as we saw one of our two garages was gone. The other one was not touched. There was a pile of debris about 10 feet tall sitting in my back yard. I assumed part of that was my garage.
Right on the top of the pile was an old “buggy,” upside down, and its wheels were spinning. I remembered seeing the “buggy” in my neighbor’s garage — which I noticed was also gone. As we began to walk through the community, a sense of shock and horror overtook us.
Trees were down all over, houses were heavily damaged, our previous Valhalla Park was now a barren mess, with most of the beautiful trees destroyed.
Somehow, it appeared the tornado dipped and jumped through the community, touching down to wipe out homes and trees, then lifting back into the air again.
As I look back on it today, I recall it as One Horrible Day — Maybe the worst of days!
LAUGH A LITTLE: Statistics show that people who have the most birthdays live the longest!
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As my Ole Pappy used to say, “Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed.”
Thanks Ole Pappy!