Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

National Weather Service confirms July 1 tornadoes in southwestern Minnesota July 7, 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE confirms what many Minnesotans had already figured out. Several tornadoes touched down during a massive storm system that began near the South Dakota/Minnesota border late Friday afternoon, July 1, and swept as far east as northwestern Wisconsin.

In my home area of Redwood County, two tornadoes were confirmed—both in the northwestern section of the county.

According to the NWS Chanhassen office, an EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 95 – 105 mph began approximately six miles west of Vesta and continued for some 21 miles to the northeast. The maximum half-mile wide twister moved across Belview, which saw the most widespread tree damage in the surveyed area. The tornado then crossed the Minnesota River and ended two miles into eastern Renville County. Click here to read my previous post on the storm damage in Belview.


Trees blocked the street north of the Belview City Park following the tornado that passed through this Redwood County community of 375. Photo courtesy of Merlin and Iylene Kletscher.

The second EF-1 Redwood County tornado just nipped the northwestern corner of the county traveling a 2 ½-mile path. The tornado hit the farm of my cousin, Marilyn Schmidt, and her husband, Dan. To see the damage there, click on this post published yesterday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.


This tractor rigged with chains holds up a wall of a shop on Dan and Marilyn Schmidt's Wood Lake area farm. The building was severely damaged by Friday's twister. I'm showing this photo specifically for the reader who yesterday questioned how a tractor could hold up a wall. Photo courtesy of Heather Rokeh.

Three other tornadoes were confirmed in southwestern Minnesota—the most-damaging an EF-2 in Tyler with winds estimated at 115 mph. Check out the storm assessment of this 3-mile long tornado in Lincoln County near the South Dakota border by clicking here onto the NWS Sioux Falls website.

You’ll also find information there on an EF-1 twister that struck the Ruthton area in Pipestone County with wind speeds of 100 – 110 mph.

Strong winds, not a tornado, apparently caused the damage in my hometown of Vesta. The Chanhassen office of the NWS lists the storm there as “a series of downbursts” with wind speeds of 90 – 100 mph. Destruction in Vesta included dozens of downed trees, a roof partially-lifted from St. John’s Lutheran Church (my home church), smashed grain bins, damage to the elevator and more. To learn more about the damage in Vesta, read my previous blog post by clicking here or click here to read a story published in The Redwood Gazette.

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Vesta with the roof half ripped off by strong winds during the Friday afternoon storm. Photo courtesy of Brian Kletscher.

The NWS also determined that an EF-1 tornado with wind speeds of 100 – 110 mph cut a 300-yard-wide, 2 1/2 –mile swath northeast of Danube, lifting much of the roof from at least one home.

Check out the two NWS websites for maps, photos and more detailed information on the storms and the resulting damage.

Also visit the Belview Blue Jays Facebook page, where you’ll find photos of storm damage and other information from Belview.

IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION and photos you would like to share of storm damage, please submit a comment and I will follow-up with an email to you.

Based on my blog readership yesterday and Tuesday, interest in the southwestern Minnesota storms remains high. Yesterday Minnesota Prairie Roots blog views totaled 1,129, my highest daily total since launching this blog. On an average day, I get around 400 views.


Sprinkler gymnastics on the Fourth and more family fun

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The winning team in the bean bag toss is quite obvious.


How many times does your mom have to tell you to do something before it gets done?

Name something you write down to remember.

If you know the answers (see below) to those Family Feud style questions, then you should have been at my middle brother’s home in southwestern Minnesota on Sunday. We sparred in a brief version of this television game show with young family members competing against old, “old” being anyone 50 or older.

Settled onto our lawn chairs on the driveway in front of the garage, one member of each team stepped up to a cooler, introduced themselves and then poised with hands behind backs awaiting the question. Lacking a buzzer to buzz, we substituted a plastic gallon of cheese balls plopped upon a cooler. Slap the cheese ball lid cover first and your team plays first.

If I hadn’t been so intent on winning this game, I may have thought to take pictures of the cheese ball container slapping contestants.

However, I took plenty of photos of the earlier sprinkler gymnastics. I refrained from that activity until later, at the exact moment one gymnast grabbed the sprinkler and ran onto the patio spraying all non-participants, including my 79-year-old mom. Just before that happened, I had decided to join the sprinkler crew. Timing is everything.

When you view these sprinkler gymnastics images, you will understand why I hesitated initially to join the group. I did not want to risk a leap onto water-slicked grass. Nor did I want to appear too foolish in that YouTube video my nephew-in-law was filming.

My extended family doesn't just nilly willy run through a sprinkler. Oh, no. We make it into a game. In this case, follow the leader. Whatever the leader does, you do.

From the youngest participant at age 17 to...

...one of the oldest sprinkler gymnasts at age 50.

Ah, my extended family loves to have fun.

Later, not long after the sun set on the Minnesota prairie, out came the sparklers. More fun. More laughter. More memories.

Sparkler fun for the younger ones.

Combine sparklers and a slow shutter speed and you get some interesting images.

I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather celebrate Independence Day than with my extended family on the land I love most, southwestern Minnesota.

After we shoot "nice" photos, we always like to do a fun photo. I am in the back row in the grass green shirt. Can you tell which of us were teens in the 1970s? (Hint: See the symbol we're making with two fingers. You would think we could be more creative.) All family members, except me, shall remain unidentified.

HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE your Fourth of July?

HERE ARE THE TOP answers to the three questions posed at the beginning of this post:

Vacation, two times and phone numbers.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling