Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Belview pulls together after destructive storm July 6, 2011

THREE MONTHS AGO Merlin and Iylene Kletscher closed on the purchase of a foreclosed house along Main Street in Belview. They plan to sell their lake home near New London and move back to Iylene’s hometown, also within 10 miles of Merlin’s hometown of Vesta.

My aunt and uncle want to be closer to family and friends and back in a small town like Belview with a population of 375.

They chose the Main Street fixer-upper, among other reasons, for all the beautiful trees on the property.

Today most of those trees are gone, toppled in a storm that swept through Belview and a wide-spread area of southwestern Minnesota late Friday afternoon. The storm ripped off roofs, took down power lines and trees, smashed grain bins and elevators and more as fierce winds roared across the flat prairie.

Merlin and Iylene Kletscher's home on the left, surrounded by downed trees.

Now Merlin and Iylene, like so many others in this area of Minnesota, are dealing with insurance companies and contractors as they clean up and repair their homes and businesses.

“The new chimney we had installed is leaning,” my uncle says. “The new shingles are missing ridge caps. We have broken windows and torn screens, etc.” The couple had just installed new windows in their home and made other major improvements.

Despite all of that damage to a house he and Iylene have worked so hard to restore, my uncle doesn’t seem at all discouraged. Rather, he praises Belview’s reaction to the storm: “Belview is amazing in that the people just pull together…I can’t say enough good things about the fire department and city employees and council. While we were there, trucks, tractors, 4-wheelers, payloaders, backhoes and pickups went by our house about one every 30 seconds pulling trees, debris or branches to the MPCA-approved burn site on the northeast edge of town.”

It seems the city was prepared for a natural disaster such as Friday’s storm. Log onto the city website and you’ll find a “CONSUMER ALERT: SUMMER STORM SEASON” posted by City Clerk Lori Ryer on May 24 encouraging residents to prepare for summer storms.

Entering Belview from Sacred Heart at 9 a.m. on July 2.

The city of Belview's water department building.

The ferocity of Friday’s storm is impressive. “Our neighbor across the street in Belview said that during the height of the storm, he couldn’t see his mother’s house right next door!” Merlin shares. “Chad Krinke (next door neighbor and relative) said two inches of rain fell in 20 minutes—he called us about a half hour after it hit, giving a report on our house damage. The city was blocked off, so no one could get in unless they had specific ties to someone in the city.”

Trees blocked the street north of the Belview City Park.

Jerry Hagen's house, across the street from Merlin and Iylene's home in a July 2 photo.

Residents of Parkview Home, next to the city park, were evacuated Friday night. This photo shows the nursing home and mini golf in the park. The rubber roof of the nursing home was peeled off during the storm.

Storm damage at the home of the Rev. Daniel Faugstad family.

Damage along South Main Street.

Another tree toppled onto a house.

More residential storm damage in Belview.

Merlin also reports that a farmer just west of nearby Vesta (my hometown) recorded a high wind speed of 110 mph on his wind velocity meter during the storm. I have not yet confirmed that information. Vesta was also hard hit by the storm. Click here to read that story and view photos of the damage.

The damaged bins and elevator at Meadowland Farmers Elevator in Vesta.

Neighboring Belview and Vesta are only two of the many, many small towns in southwestern Minnesota hit by Friday’s storms. I expect that hundreds of farm places were also ravaged. For the most part, the disaster has not been covered by metro media and that bothers me—a lot.

IF YOU LIVE in southwestern Minnesota and were impacted by the storm, please submit a comment telling me about your personal experiences (where were you/did you seek shelter/what was the storm like, etc.), damage to your property or town, and recovery progress. I am also looking for photos to publish, so contact me via a comment and I will follow-up by emailing you.

PHOTOS COURTESY of Merlin and Iylene Kletscher

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


23 Responses to “Belview pulls together after destructive storm”

  1. Lanae Says:

    With all the damage from the storm I have to say “Praise be to God” that no one was killed in southwestern Minnesota.
    Twin Cities TV stations are in a dream land if they don’t think people want to hear about the rural areas. WE watch the news. WE want to hear about the storm damage. We came from rural Minnesota. So if you read this, start getting it.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Amen. I agree with you on all points.

      I’ll be posting a story and photos, hopefully later today, of damage on one farm in sw Minnesota. Check back.

  2. Lori Ryer, City Clerk/Treas. Says:

    Much has changed in my beautiful little town except for the spirit of its residents. Homes have been damaged, but not destroyed. Most importantly, no one was injured during the storm or during the days of clean-up following.

    We were without power from Friday afternoon until Monday around 8:00 p.m. Five days after the F1 tornado blew through town, there are still volunteers cutting trees and cleaning up debris that have not been able to be home to take care of their own homes that were damaged.

    I know for my husband and me, we have not been able to work at home but our yard is looking pretty decent compared to right after the storm. Trees have been cut down and removed from our front yard and we don’t even know who to thank.

    I have heard of story after story of residents who had family and friends come in and clean up their property and when they were done they just moved on to the next yard. We had more offers for help than our little town can hold. So to those of you whose offer for help was not needed at this time, the thought was still very much appreciated.

    While we may not be on the media’s radar as being newsworthy, that’s okay. We have something very special here and we all know it and that is what counts.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Lori, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the situation in Belview. I think you summarized well the spirit of small town southwestern Minnesota. Neighbors help neighbors.

      Two of my brothers and their families, when they finished cleaning my mom’s yard in nearby Vesta after the storm, then moved on to the next-door neighbor’s yard. So I bet this is replaying in many areas of rural Minnesota this week.

      For those of you who’ve never been to the Redwood County town of Belview, check out the just-published summer issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. A hot air balloon photo taken above Belview graces the cover. Just last week, days before the storm, Lori and I were talking on the phone as I was gathering additional information needed for the story and photos from Belview. (I was proofing the magazine; Lori wrote the story and submitted the images.) Lori impressed me then with her outgoing personality and quick response to my questions. I believe Belview is fortunate to have her there, working as city clerk/treasurer.

  3. Wendy Visto Says:

    My sister and her 2 little girls live in Belview, so sad to hear and see all the damage. Coming from a small town in North Dakota, I am glad to hear your town is working together. That is how we can say we are proud of our community. I thank all that have helped her and her girls !

    Wendy Ramaker-Visto

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That’s the thing about small towns. Everyone comes together.

      What type of damage did your sister sustain to her property?

      • Wendy Visto Says:

        windows,siding,roof,garage is gone, needs a new kitchen ceiling,a new kitchen floor. My niece needs a new bed that was soaked from the rain. And lost a lot of trees.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Wendy, can you give me more information? Do you live in Belview? Can you still live in your home or have you been displaced? Do you have insurance to cover your losses?

        And, how about that bed for your niece? What type of bed does she need? Perhaps a reader of Minnesota Prairie Roots could donate a bed to your niece.

  4. Krista Cory Says:

    God Bless the people of Belview. I looked at the pictures of the destruction and can’t believe it. I am so happy that no one was hurt. Belview will forever have a special place in my heart.
    Krista Cory (daughter of Donovan Davidson/granddaughter of Carl and Marie Davidson)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Those of us who grew up on the farms or in the small towns of southwestern Minnesota, or who have connections to the area, will always have a special place in our hearts for this part of our state. I, too, am thankful that no one was injured. But it is difficult to view the destruction.

      Please check out my just-published post on the National Weather Service’s assessment of the storms and damage.

  5. Bernie Says:

    I’m so amazed that with all these storms nobody was killed. That is a blessing. Things can be replaced, its a pain and costs money, but they can be. People can’t.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      It really is a blessing that no one was injured or killed given the extensive area this storm system covered.

  6. DeeDee Says:

    I was so sad to see the terrible aftermath of the storm that moved through my hometown. We always had the most beautiful main street around. It truly is a blessing that everyone is ok there. Knowing Belview as I do, I am sure everyone pulled together to get things cleaned up and when I come out in Sept. for Old Sod Days, it will be beautiful again. It will be the people who make it that way…Thanks so much for the great pictures. Deanna (DeDe) Weidemann Neuhaus

  7. TJ Essig Says:

    I grew up in SW Mn and remember going through Belview many times. I lived in Sanborn until 6 yrs ago and remember a tornado did similar damage in the late 70’s early 80’s ( it was after 77 though) and people came to help like there was no tomorrow! That’s what’s great about small town living, everyone will bend over backwards for those in need. God Bless all in the Belview/Vesta area, you will survive and get through this, and will ALWAYS be a proud small town!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m sure the folks from the Belview/Vesta area appreciate your encouraging and kind words regarding small-town southwestern Minnesota. I’m proud to have my roots in rural Vesta. I am glad you had the opportunity to live in this region and get to know how special prairie people really are.

  8. Michele Rae Landmark Says:

    thank god and our angel Debbie for bringing my husband (on a bike) through here safely and I pray for the families affected by this storm

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Michele, could you share more details on how your angel Debbie assisted your husband during the storm? The Facebook link you provided in your comment does not work and I assume you shared the story there. You’ve certainly raised my curiosity and I would like to hear more. Please submit another comment.

      I’m so thankful your husband is safe.

  9. Wendy Visto Says:

    No, I do not live in Belview. I live in Oakes, North Dakota. From what my sister has told me, an insurance adjuster was there on Friday to look at the damage. She does have homeowner’s insurance. She is displaced and is living with a good friend of hers. They have started the clean-up process in her home. She is on her third dumpster. Now it is a matter of finding contractors that are honest and will do the work for her. My niece just turned 3 in May and had just gotten her BIG GIRL bed, (twin) and all her bedding was ruined too.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you so much for the additional information about your sister’s losses, Wendy. This has to be so difficult. I’m thankful she and your niece at least have a place to live for now and that they are safe.

      Is there any way specifically that people can help your sister and her family? If so, please share and I’ll get the word out.

  10. Tammy Says:

    Belview is my hometown. My mom still lives there. She is a widowed lady who just returned home about a month ago after an illness. It was amazing to see the town pull together. My siblings and I were all able to get home to clean her yard. She lost pretty much every tree in her yard. Lost some shingles and some siding from her house. But GOD kept her safe and that is what counts. GOD was watching out for the residents of Belview!

    I have to say that seeing the devastation was heart breaking. The city park was pretty much destroyed. And the nursing home that I worked out…well we all know what happened there.

    Belview is the best small town you can live in. The people are friendly and they seem to always watch out for each other. They will all bounce back and remain a strong, united community.

    Tammy (Omtvedt) Parrott, South Dakota

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Tammy, thank you so much for sharing this touching tribute to the residents of Belview. Having grown up in Vesta just down the road, I understand exactly what you are saying.

      I agree that God was watching over southwestern Minnesota on July 1. To have no deaths, or injuries, truly is miraculous.

      I, too, am most thankful that my mom, who lives in Vesta, is safe. It is heart-wrenching to see such destruction in the place where you grew up and love. I expect it is the trees that will be most missed. For many years as a child, I attended the Kletscher reunion in the Belview Park. I am sorry to hear about all the damage there.

      I have only heard that part of the rubber roof was peeled off the nursing home and that residents were evacuated on the Friday of the storm. Is Parkview closed now until repairs are made? If so, where are the residents living now? I would like to hear more information about this. I’ve had family members who called Parkview home, not recently, but in the past. I’ve visited there many times.

      Again, thank you for stopping by to share your information and thoughts.

      • Tammy Says:

        In regards to Parkview Home, the last I heard was that all the staff was let go and it would be at least 8 months before it would reopen. The residents were removed and sent to surrounding home such as Wabasso, Olivia, and I believe Renville and Redwood. Not sure on those last two. Hope this helps.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Readers, I will have an update for you on Wednesday from the Belview City Clerk/Treasurer.

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