Archived Story

Progress 2011: Spiral Survivor

Published 3:30pm Friday, March 18, 2011

Last June, in a matter of a few minutes, the comfortable life of Freeborn County resident Jordann Kunkel got turned upside down.

The 21-year-old area native was at home with her father, Mike Callahan, when a tornado approached — and then hit — their house, taking with it all of Kunkel’s belongings, along with the familiar surroundings of many of her childhood experiences.

Twenty-one-year-old Jordann Kunkel stands next to a frame of pictures made out of the window of her family’s barn that was destroyed by the June 17 tornadoes. -- Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Living at the home, 31200 768th Ave. in Bath Township, for her entire life, she said the experience hit her hard.

She deferred her enrollment at Minnesota State University, Mankato, to focus on her family in the aftermath.

Though she struggled and grieved about what happened for several months, she has now begun to pick up the pieces.

She began taking general education courses at Riverland Community College and within the next year will probably be starting a work study program at Minnesota State.

She lives with her parents, who are renting a home on Abbott Street in Albert Lea while they are rebuilding their old house.

“It’s a place where we found peace after all this,” her mother, Kathy Kunkel, said.

At first her father did not want to rebuild at the same location as their old house, but one day in October he woke up and had changed his mind, the young woman said.

He and other family members are rebuilding all by themselves, and they hope to be finished with their new house by late May or early June.

Hero: Jordann Kunkel
Secret identity:
student at Riverland Community College, tornado survivor
Base of operations: Albert Lea
Superpowers: honesty, caring, devotion to friends and family
Kryptonite: texting, drinking Monster Energy drinks
Affiliations: father, Mike Callahan; mother, Kathy Kunkel; siblings: Jenny Hacker, Lori Callahan, Lisa Callahan and Chris Callahan; brothers-in law: Chad Hacker, Mark Palamountain and Darin Halsted; sister-in-law, Kerry Callahan; nieces: Larissa Hacker and Katie Baseman; nephews: Levi Hacker, Lucas Hacker, Logan Hacker, Spencer Eggers, Jerry Halsted and Cody Baseman.
Origin: Kunkel, 21, has lived at 31200 768th Ave. — in Bath Township between Clarks Grove and Ellendale — for her entire life.
Her father, Mike Callahan, shot video footage as the tornado approached — and then hit — the house.
Called “Tornado Hombre,” the video featured Callahan and Kunkel, who were the only people home at the time.
Kunkel can be heard advising her father to come down to the basement as the tornado came closer to their house. She later can be heard screaming and crying as the house above them became the tornado’s next victim.
The video has received more than 36,000 views on YouTube and has gained attention by local, state and even national media. “It’s still going,” Kunkel said. “People still watch it.”
She said she has finally gotten to a point where she can watch it and not cringe.
The video offers insight into what the father and daughter experienced.