Archived Story

‘A bad hombre’

Published 9:53am Friday, June 25, 2010

A little curiosity went a long way.

In the midst of all the devastation and damage from last week’s tornadoes, one man’s video footage as the tornado approaches — and then hits — his own home is offering some insight into the effect a tornado can have on a family who endured it.

The video, shot by Freeborn County resident Mike Callahan, who lives at 31200 768th Ave., in Bath Township between Clarks Grove and Ellendale, was posted on YouTube on June 18 — simply as a way to show family what he and his daughter experienced.

However, since then, it has received more than 20,000 views, and has gained attention by local, state and even national media.

What Callahan caught on camera, known as “Tornado Hombre” has even caught the attention of Good Morning America staff, who called the family earlier this week.

Callahan said he and his daughter Jordann Kunkel were watching the news the evening of June 17 when they received a call from Kunkel’s sister who said she had seen a cloud west of Albert Lea by City Arena.

“I didn’t think it would hit us,” Callahan said.

Right after that, it started sprinkling outside, and then that turned into torrential rains, he said.

The weather cleared up a little, but then a couple miles away he saw a dark cloud approaching.

Callahan said at that point he got out his camera.

At first, the tornado seemed as if it was “crawling” toward them, he said. It looked slow.

“That’s him right there, he’s on the ground,” Callahan can be heard saying in the video. “That’s a bad hombre there.”

But he soon realized the tornado was headed right at the farm.

“It was dead on us,” he said.

About one minute and 30 seconds into the video, Callahan can be heard saying he thinks it’s time for him to go down to the basement. But enthralled by what is approaching, it takes him almost a minute to go down a few more steps to the level that the family’s garage is on. There he looks outside again.

All the while, Kunkel is yelling up to her father, pleading with him to get to the basement.

About three and a half minutes into the video, Callahan walks down to his basement, which is almost completely underground.

At about four minutes in, Kunkel sees that a room adjacent to the living space in the basement has been flooded. Back in the main basement room, the news plays in the background.

Forty-five seconds later, Callahan advises Kunkel to listen to the sound of swirling wind.

“Woah, my ears,” he said a few seconds later. “My ears are popping … Wow, we’re under it.”

The window flapped open and shut violently and the power flickered.

He described the sound he heard, not as a freight train but as “a grinding roar.”

From the basement, he said, he could feel the tornado pushing and pulling the house.

“I had faith in this structure, but I could feel things lifting,” he said.

Listening to what was happening upstairs, the father and daughter said they knew the upstairs was getting destroyed.

“Hang on house, hang on,” Callahan says in the video.

Just before six minutes into the video, Callahan and Kunkel crawl under a desk in the basement for protection. Shortly after, the power went out. The screen turns black and all the viewer can do is listen to audio.

Kunkel begins to panic, screaming about the house.

Hail begins shortly after.

At about seven minutes and 20 seconds into the video, Kunkel receives a phone call from a niece.

“Um, I’m in a tornado right now, can I call you back?” she can be heard saying.

The viewer can hear the conversation, along with other audio from Callahan, but cannot see what is happening or how much damage there has been.

Toward the end of the video, Callahan describes a painful headache that he is experiencing

The viewer is left wondering what damages the house received and whether Callahan and Kunkel are safe.

Callahan said they waited a few minutes in the basement, and when they came outside they were greeted by a Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office deputy, who asked if everyone was OK.

They found debris littered all around, trees destroyed and their outbuildings gone.

“It’s just a monster blender,” he said, of the tornado.

Two rooms on the upper level of the home were ripped off and many windows were broken out; however, the foundation stood strong, along with about half of the house.

Regardless, the house has been declared a total loss.

Callahan said two of the family’s dogs were with them in the basement; the third had wondered off and came back the next day.

Kunkel said the family’s 28-year-old horse, Skippy, was killed. They haven’t found their house cat. A truck, motor home and boat were also damaged, among many other items.

Since the tornado struck their home, the family has been staying at the Knights Inn, in the same three rooms they occupied about 10 years ago when there was a fire at the house.

Kunkel was supposed to take a final at the Minnesota School of Business in Rochester the day after the tornado but was allowed to take it this past Monday instead. She said she didn’t have any notes to study, but somehow still got an A.

She was the speaker at the graduation for the college Thursday night.

Callahan said he does not want to rebuild at the site, and instead wants to turn it into a pheasant habitat.

He wants to build or buy a home in Albert Lea.

Click the link below to view the video on this page of the Tribune website:

Tornado Hombre

The video can be found below the slideshow.