Weather Forecast


Still cleaning up along tornado's route in Renville Co., Minn.

Five days after the storm hit, Kraig and Deb Winzenburg were still hard at the task of cleaning up the debris that the tornado made. Their home north of Danube, and a barn and silo on the property, were destroyed. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

DANUBE -- For 32 years, Keith Anderson has answered the call after every major storm to help restore power as an employee with Renville-Sibley Cooperative Power and Light.

Not this time.

"It hit me when they told me not to come,'' said Anderson.

Keith and Pat Anderson lost their home to the Friday storm that knocked out power to many.

They are now six days into the arduous work of cleaning up the debris that still lies about their home site north of Danube.

"We're so tired out it isn't even funny,'' said Pat on Wednesday.

The Andersons had fled to their basement and listened as what the National Weather Service now confirms was an EF-1 tornado ripped through their property. Their pickup truck, camper and horse trailer were ruined along with the house, but their frantic efforts to lead their horses into the barn as the storm bore down on them were rewarded. The animals were unhurt, but would surely have been killed had they been outside, said the Andersons.

"We just barely made it to the basement and boom, and bang. The hail sounded like metal,'' said Pat.

The next thing they knew the doors blew open, the wind whipped through and water poured into the basement. "It was like a tin can, everything blew out,'' said Keith of their home.

Friday's severe weather event covered an area from South Dakota into northwestern Wisconsin, and dropped EF-1 tornados on paths in Redwood County, southeastern Yellow Medicine County and central Renville County. The tornado in Renville County ran for 2½ miles and shredded just about everything within a 300-yard path of its route. It began at a point one-half mile northwest of Danube and ran roughly along County Road 1 for its distance, according to the National Weather Service.

That path made a bull's eye of Kraig and Deb Winzenburg's home north of Danube.

"My ears popped and I did hear the train,'' said Kraig Winzenburg.

Deb Winzenburg saw the sky turn green and fled with her husband and children, ages 5, 10 and 13 to the basement. Their barn and silo and dozens of trees disappeared in about the time it took them to get to safety.

Neither had any doubt when a woman told them later she saw two twisters headed in their direction.

If the damage didn't make it obvious that it was a tornado that struck, the three, perfect circles visible in the corn field outside their home does, they noted.

Their home was shoved off its foundation, the roof ripped open and the inside soaked in water. Gritty shards of glass fill the carpeting and furniture. "It was tough to watch that one go, but it will be fun to see a new one pop up,'' said Winzenburg, who was waiting for his insurance adjuster to arrive on Wednesday.

Jim Zenk was five days into cleaning up the debris from what had been his brand new, 72-feet by 102-feet machine shed on his farm north of Olivia on Wednesday. Zenk said his son had been visiting on Friday. Just before he and his wife Diane were to leave for a weekend at the lake their son showed them a weather radar image on his cell phone. What he described as a "really bad, big red glob'' was moving directly towards Renville County.

"I said let's hold off until the storm blows over,'' said Zenk. "It blew over all right.''

Parts of the machine shed were carried a full mile. Many of the pieces -- including two 24-foot long timbers -- landed in his corn field on the east size of Highway 71. Cleaning up the pieces is only part of the heartache. The golf-ball sized hail that came with this storm inflicted heavy damage on corn and soybeans fields as well.

"The more work I do, the more (damage) I see,'' said Zenk.

Tim Minkel said there was very little they could see as the storm bore down on Kevin and Marilyn Vosika's property north of Olivia. Minkel, an employee there, said they were wrapping things up for the day when things turned so black they could not see beyond the house.

Once the storm moved on, they saw only pieces and scraps where the shop and machine building had stood.

Phil Smith feels himself fortunate to still have his building standing. His Pioneer Seed distribution center in the heart of Sacred Heart had its roof lifted, which caused the south wall to fall. The whole thing might have collapsed, except for the fact that a late season meant he still had some black, seed crates standing all the way to the roof. They held things up until Jim Thein and his crew arrived in response to Smith's call for help.

They were at the scene in less than two hours and erected supports for the roof, said Smith.

As fast as the storm arrived, so too did help, said those in its path. "We're all in the same boat, yet everyone helped each other out," said Keith Anderson.

The Anderson's pastor at the Evangelical Free Church in Willmar put out word that the Zenks were in need of a camper for shelter while they replace their home. Within 15 minutes the first offer arrived, said the Zenks.

"There are so many blessing in this whole thing too,'' said Pat Anderson in disbelief.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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