Saturday Snapshot : TORNADO


This morning,I was going to go a completely different direction with Saturday Snapshot.  As I walked my yard, I was taking pictures of trees…  I love trees and we have quite the variety, silver maples, apple, cherry, plum, oak, and even walnut.  But – that one will have to wait.  As I looked around the yard I love so much, I went somewhere else.

Last Friday June 13th marked the 13th anniversary of the tornado that destroyed most of our property, Al (hubby’s) business, and not only changed our lives forever – but those of our neighbors too.  This morning as I walked the yard I started taking pictures of the “now” and then came in the house and took pictures of the pictures I have in an album of the “then”.


On June 13th, 2001, I had come home from work around 5:30.  I remember all of this because I documented the day, and the days and weeks to follow, in a journal.  The sky that night, I need no journal to remind me of.  It was a thick sort of green and looked cartoonish.  In fact, I thought it was so unique that I went outside and took pictures of the sky with my camera at the time.  The pictures never did the sky justice, but one of the pictures I took from our back deck was this one of our neighbors farm:


The picture is much better in my album, but as you can make out this is a large farm.
The next morning – I stood in the same spot on my deck and took a picture of their farm, or what was left of it, again.


So what went down?

Al had just left to go and do a bid for a guy on the south end of town.  I was on the couch reading after dinner and the boys ( at the time they were 10 and 12) were watching tv.  The tv came through with a tornado warning in the area.  This is common for June in this area and I barely even flinched.  Then, Al came running in the house telling us to all get in the basement.  He had been driving and seen the wall of the tornado south of us, turned around and raced home.

We all went to the basement, us and our two dogs.  We sat under the stairs and we could hear the wind pick up.  The house started to shake and dirt from between the floor boards above our head started to fall.  I remember I was sitting cross-legged and then thought better of it thinking if we did become trapped in the house how uncomfortable that would be to be stuck that way.

After a while – it just went quiet.

Al decided to go upstairs and look around.  I was envisioning that scene out of Twister where the dad opens the door to the cellar and is whisked away.  Upstairs I could hear him walking around saying “Oh no, no…”  I told the boys to stay put and I joined Al upstairs.  We had no electricity then – in fact we did not have electricity, or running water for the four days following.  Through the flashes of lightning we could see our home, plants turned over, our bedroom door was ripped off the hinges and was now in the living room, our windows had exploded and shards of glass had embedded itself in the walls across from the windows.  Outside we could see trees down everywhere and large chunks of our yard torn up.

I kept repeating, “We were hit.  We were hit.”


Even as I type this I kind of tear up because it was a scary time for us.  Al had just finished putting up his 40 x 80 building for his business out behind our yard, and the electricity had just been put in the week before.  It was gone.

Here are some pictures from that night… to this morning.


Left – our home this morning. Right – that morning after the tornado. The tree that is down was a large crab tree, really the center focus of the front yard. It broke my heart to see that tree split and dying.


Left: The back of the house this morning. Right: The back of the house the morning after the tornado. The large tree still in today’s picture split in half and landed on our roof. This tree is the reason we did not lose our home entirely, the weight of the tree still attached to the deep roots help our roof on. The front of the houses roof lifted 5 inches, but never came off. LOVE that tree. 🙂


Left – the garage area this morning. Right – where our garage had stood before the tornado. At the time the garage was not attached to the house (perhaps a good thing) and the tornado completely took it. The red jeep and the white truck were parked in front of the garage as you see them here. My jeep was untouched and Al’s truck had a hairline crack in the windshield. The garage must have went straight in the air and left the yard intact. The remains from it was found across the road behind a neighbors back yard.


Left: A tree in our back yard this morning. Right: That same tree the day after the tornado. What is wrapped around it is the roof from Al’s shop. What is crazy is that if the roof had not been stopped by becoming caught on this tree, it would have hit our house at a speed of over 100 miles per hour. Al wanted to cut this tree down after the tornado but I said no. Then all the branches off the backside of it had been seared off, but today it is healthy and whole again.


This is a shot of our back yard after the tornado. The plastic white things are to put calves in from our neighbors farm. We pretty much had all of their damage in our yard and the neighbors across the street had all of ours.


More of the yard. We lost about 40 trees after all was said and done.


Friends who came to help with the clean up.



It is the pictures of the friends who came to help afterwards that brings the tears back to my eyes but this time with a smile.  We worked for days afterwards, cutting up the trees, hauling away debris, repairing the house.  It took over a year to bring the house and yard back to some sort of normalcy.

Here is what happened during the tornado:

  • all windows on the back side of the house were blown out
  • the back and sides of the house had the wood siding ripped off
  • we lost our garage entirely
  • Al lost his shop entirely
  • 40 trees lost
  • garden was destroyed
  • another garage on the property was bowed in back like a “C”
  • Basement flooded the day after the tornado
  • bedroom (along back side of house) was destroyed

When all was said and done we resided the house with an aluminum steel siding.  We replaced the large bay window in the bedroom with a smaller one.  We saved the tree on the deck, he is half the tree he used to be but that is ok. 🙂  We have since remodeled the basement (2004) to now be a second level to our home – family room, a bedroom, storage and laundry.  Al rebuilt his business with the insurance money and is now thriving.  Our home has been remodeled, we built a new garage to go on the house, and our yard – while not as many trees as I would like…. has sort of a park look to it now and I like it.


The back yard this morning.
This morning, I had to look hard to find it, but I did. This is a piece of metal that was driven into this tree in our yard during the tornado. It is a good 6 inches into the tree and will never come out. A reminder of what was….



This final picture was taken last night.  I love my back yard.  And if you look way out you can see the trucks of Al’s business, 13 years later doing well, rebuilt after that night that rocked our world forever.


Check out other Saturday Snapshots here. 🙂



54 thoughts on “Saturday Snapshot : TORNADO

    1. It was pretty amazing. At the time I worked as a manager at Walmart and they did not have electricity the next day so my boss (who is in the 4 square picture – upper right pic, guy on left) offered anyone to come out to our property and work instead on the clock. They brought me work gloves, bottled water, granola bars, and toilet paper from the store for the volunteers.

  1. Thanks for sharing that, Sheila, tornadoes are horrible events…scary, awful, devastating!

    But…on a lighter note…nice toes and is that a book I see? Books go better with wine than audio! Just teasing! And as my husband would say…that’s a healthy pour! Again…teasing…cheers to a lovely week end!

  2. Wow… such a frightening event. Thanks goodness y’all weren’t harmed. I got the chills as I looked at all your photos. I love how everyone pitched in to help each other in the aftermath of such devastation.

    1. It was a good time for our community. Red Cross had a truck come out each afternoon and at dinner time filled with food donated by local restaurants. It would park in our driveway and we and the volunteers could go out and take what we needed for our meals. We had no refrigeration for 4 days so this was very helpful.

  3. I cannot believe the events that have happened to you and you remain such an optimistic happy woman..truly an inspiration!

    1. I teared up twice while writing it. I remember being so exhausted that night. We worked through the night putting tarps over the holes where our windows once were. It was pouring rain, we were muddy and tired. My grandmother offered us to all go to her home the next day to shower and clean up and I remember I was sitting on the couch getting ready to go and I fell asleep exhausted.

    1. I sure respected the warnings a lot more after being involved in a tornado that is for sure. My older son at the time was really freaked out about storms afterwards. I had to drive him through the tornadoes path to look at all the homes that were damaged and see the people rebuilding, that they were ok. Overall I believe it was 7 houses that were hit – ours and our two neighbors, and then 4 other homes and a plant nursery business south of town.

      1. I can understand getting freaked out, especially at that age. I guess eventually we just learn to live with it. Two years ago we got hit with a severe storm – giant hail balls and 90mph winds – on a Sunday afternoon with no warning. Our house was fine, but there was tree and garden damage. And power was out for a few days. It could have been worse.

  4. Wow, how frightening! Being from the PNW, I’m always blown away (no pun intended) by stories like this as we rarely have such weather. I’m glad that you home and business was able to recover!

  5. Yikes, how scary! We’ve had tornados close to us, but not damaging our house. That’s awesome, how much help you got cleaning up afterward. It’s so great to see people come together like that.

  6. Great story – you have a very detailed memory! Tornadoes have terrified me for many years – been close but never actually hit. I will let you know when the Skywarn class comes up again next spring. 🙂

    1. Thank you Diane it really is amazing and we do thank God, there were so many things that are crazy weird – the tree falling on the house and thus protecting us, the garage not being attached so left freely without tearing the house open with it, and of course the tree in the back yard that caught that big shop roof and stopped it (little tree…. BIG ROOF!) from crashing into our home.

  7. Oh my gosh, what a day! I’ve never been that close to a tornado, but definitely had a few scares living in Minnesota. When I was a newpaper intern several years ago the community I was covering got hit by a tornado. I spent a day out taking photos of the damage and clean up and agree, it’s so crazy the way the wind whips things around and what does and doesn’t get damaged.

  8. Oh my god that sounds like an incredibly scary thing to go through! Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting us all in on somehting as traumatic as that!

  9. Glad that you were all ok and have moved on from this heartbreaking event.
    Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  10. I am so glad we don’t have tornado ‘s here in South Africa. I cannot (and do not want to imagine) what you went through. Our tiny little home is miniscule but I don’t know what we would do if I had no where to sleep . . .

  11. I remember this evening vividly as well. We were driving home from vacation and as we came over the overpass by Little Falls we saw a fireball of light as something hit the power in Little Falls and all the lights in the town went off. We made it home in time to crouch in the basement of my mother’s home as we listened to the radio and heard about the area the tornado was touching down in. I was crying because our brand new triple wide home was sitting at Brainerd Homes waiting to be delivered to our property on Monday. We had waited for it for 6 weeks while it was being built and in my head I could just see it in a pile of rubble. Thankfully it wasn’t touched and thankfully you and your family were okay. It was indeed a scary experience and I was about 20 miles away from the damage! I can’t imagine having to go through it.

  12. What an extraordinary story. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to live through a tornado. I’m so glad that we don’t have anything like that in my area. Is your area particularly tornado prone?

    1. Our area has many “tornado watch” weather conditions each year but in my life time of living here I am only aware of a few touchdowns (three or less including ours) . We are also prone to straight line winds which can be just as dangerous. They said the night of ours that it was an F3 tornado combines with straight line winds.

  13. Amazing photos… and a sign of the resilience of your community and your own family. You probably all wanted to just sit and cry, but you rolled up your sleeves and got to work. Thanks for sharing a difficult time with us. I see the year was 2001, before 9/11, a grim year all around…

  14. Sheila, there’s no way this doesn’t bring tears to the eyes. It was obviously devastating, but just like those two blessed trees, you “grew back” to be “healthy and whole again” 🙂 Oh, I do love trees, too. Thank God no one was hurt 🙂

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