Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No siren equals misguided storm logic in Appleton, Wisconsin August 7, 2013

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SHE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. After all, I raised her to respect storms, to head to the basement when the siren sounds.

But early this morning, warning sirens didn’t alert residents of Appleton to the severe storm sweeping through this northeastern Wisconsin city. That’s according to my second daughter, who awakened between midnight and 1 a.m. to strong winds whipping and rattling the vertical blinds in her apartment between Northland Avenue and a residential street on Appleton’s north side, the area hardest hit in this community.

Rather than proceed to the basement, she opened her second floor sliding patio door, retrieved her pepper and other plants from the balcony and crawled back into bed. Her reason: No sirens.

Crazy girl. I taught her to respect severe storms like the one early this morning that produced reported “hurricane force” winds of up to 96 mph in Appleton and the surrounding region.

According to numerous online news sources, strong winds snapped more than 100 power lines and damaged the electrical network and transmission system leaving some 62,000-plus customers initially without power. My daughter is among those. It could take up to three days before power is fully restored to the area, according to information on the City of Appleton website.

Just blocks east of my daughter’s apartment, a section of main arterial Northland Avenue is closed due to downed power lines. Trees are down everywhere, she says, and Hortonville to the northwest of Appleton was especially hard hit. She drove by the town this morning en route to New London to interpret at a medical appointment.

Appleton Medical Center, where my daughter often interprets for Spanish-speaking patients, is reportedly operating on back-up power and is bringing in a second generator from Chicago. Surgeries have been canceled.

Residents in the region are dealing with felled trees and damage to buildings.

The Outagamie County (Appleton rests in part of this county) Emergency Operations Center has been activated, an emergency declaration issued and Red Cross shelters opened in New London and Wrightstown, according to the Outagamie County Facebook page.

The need for “great caution” while traveling in north Appleton, Grand Chute, Kimberly, Little Chute, Hortonville and Freedom is recommended because of downed trees and debris on roadways.

Now, after reading all of that, should my daughter have retreated to the basement of her apartment building during this morning’s storm?

This mom thinks so.

Should the sirens in Appleton have been activated?

This mom thinks so.

WEDNESDAY EVENING UPDATE: According to news reports, the National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado in Appleton and an EF-2 tornado in the New London area. See this link:

http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/weather/tornados-leave-path-of-destruction

An additional Red Cross shelter has been opened in Appleton.

As of early this evening, my daughter still did not have power and was preparing to throw food and purchase additional candles and a bigger flashlight. She also is without hot water. She lives near the Northland Mall, which sustained roof damage.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping for the father-of-the-bride at a “Main Street” men’s clothing store in Owatonna

Chairs invite customers and passersby to sit a spell outside St. Clair's for Men and Owatonna Shoe.

Chairs invite customers and passersby to sit a spell outside St. Clair’s for Men and Owatonna Shoe.

THERE’S SOMETHING TO BE SAID for a long-standing men’s fine clothing store like St. Clair’s for Men in Owatonna.

My husband, who was shopping for a suit for our eldest daughter’s wedding, ended up at St. Clair’s after quick stops at two large retail chain stores. In at least one of those stores, we rummaged through racks of suit coats and dress pants without a clerk in sight to assist.

Randy received attentive personal service from the minute he walked into St. Clair's for Men.

Randy received attentive personal service at St. Clair’s for Men.

But the minute we walked in the door at St. Clair’s, 117 N. Cedar Avenue in downtown Owatonna, Randy received top notch personal service. I didn’t get the employee’s name, but he knew sizes just by looking at my husband, although he did pull out the tape measure for arm length. He’s worked at St. Clair’s for 27 years.

According to the business’ website, “With over 140 years of combined menswear experience, we are sure we’ll spoil you for shopping anywhere else.” They got that right.

A snippet of the fine clothing at St. Clair's.

A snippet of the fine clothing at St. Clair’s.

Since 1890—that’s 123 years—this business, owned by Greg Krueger since 1982, has served men in southern Minnesota.

Meandering through the store, I found this iron set up in the rear. Another example of customer service.

Meandering through the store, I found this iron set up in the rear. Another example of customer service.

Shopping at St. Clair’s, for us, took the stress out of purchasing a suit for the most important day of a father’s life. Randy got a perfect fit, after free alterations at the in-house tailor’s shop.

Randy even brought home a leaflet on how to tie ties.

Randy even brought home a leaflet on how to tie ties.

A small sampling of the ties sold at St. Clair's.

A small sampling of the ties sold at St. Clair’s.

The sales prices of the suit coat, pants, white shirt and tie made buying here no more costly than purchasing from a mega retailer.

A model business motto imprinted upon a St. Clair's bag.

A model business motto, “your personal men’s store,” imprinted upon a St. Clair’s bag.

If this sounds like an enthusiastic endorsement of St. Clair’s for Men, it is.

St. Clair's for men sits next to Owatonna Shoe, which has been "serving the area for over 65 years, with service, quality and fit!"

St. Clair’s for men sits next to Owatonna Shoe, a family-owned business which has been “serving the area for over 65 years, with service, quality and fit!” Catch that? Service, just like that offered at St. Clair’s.

I’m all for great customer service, a business art that seems mostly lost but for these small town independently-owned Main Street shops.

Full service independent men’s clothing stores are rare these days. I remember when two such shops, Jim & Joe’s and Ochs Department Store, existed in downtown Faribault. No more.

So I am especially thankful for places like St. Clair’s for Men which, with knowledge, individual attention and outstanding customer service, transformed my hardworking blue collar husband in to one mighty handsome father-of-the-bride.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling