Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Tornado terror in Minneapolis August 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:42 PM

When tornadoes hit the metro area on Wednesday afternoon, I was concerned. My oldest daughter and other extended family members live in south Minneapolis.

I was pretty certain Amber was OK as she works in St. Paul. But I wasn’t sure about everyone else, including my mom, who was in Minneapolis visiting her brother.

Turns out everyone, and everything, was fine. Almost.

My niece Tara and her husband, Andy, who live in Plymouth, were driving to the Mall of America, inching along in stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 35 Wednesday afternoon, exactly when the tornadoes touched down.

As Tara tells the story, she first noticed a small branch or shrub blowing in the air while they were parked at a dead stop in the construction zone. By then the rain had mostly subsided.

Andy saw the foliage too, she says, but thought only that strong winds had blown something off a tree.

I’LL LET TARA PICK UP THE TALE: “He (Andy) continued to watch the cars around us as we crawled forward, and I continued to watch the debris. It wasn’t until I saw the tree branch/shrub swirling around again, this time accompanied by a head or foot board of a bed, that I started to freak out and realize it was a tornado.

“I opened my window to listen for sirens, but there was nothing. The sky wasn’t a funny color, there was no rumbling, and WCCO radio wasn’t saying a peep about bad weather.

“Areas of 35 were also starting to flood. There was an area on the other side where the water was up to the top of the vehicle tires. The water was rushing like a river as the person was getting out of their vehicle and the water was spilling through the cracks of the barrier into our lane so we had to maneuver the car quickly into the other lane. I’m not sure if our side completely flooded like the other side because we were trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.

“The one thing I fear the most was within 50 feet of me yesterday! It was quite a scary experience and I don’t care to EVER be that close to a tornado again.”

I understand my niece’s fear and respect for tornadoes. During my childhood, a deadly tornado hit the farming community of Tracy some 25 miles to the south and west of my home farm. Nine people died. The images of that devastation are forever imprinted upon my memory.

Then, some 30 years ago, a tornado hit the farm where I grew up, demolishing the silo, tossing farm wagons around the fields and causing other damage.

I am thankful that my niece and her husband escaped the August 19 Minneapolis tornado unscathed, on the day of their third wedding anniversary.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling