Debris scattered from Glenville to Austin

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2001

Tuesday’s tornado destroyed a string of houses and outbuildings between Glenville and Lansing, and Wednesday morning found dozens of residents wondering how to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Thursday, May 03, 2001

Tuesday’s tornado destroyed a string of houses and outbuildings between Glenville and Lansing, and Wednesday morning found dozens of residents wondering how to pick up the pieces of their lives.

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The tornado knocked the roof off of Christopher and Frances Michel’s rental house, about 4 miles southwest of Oakland. Their garage was destroyed, several trees were knocked over and their things were everywhere. Their children’s play set was flattened.

&uot;We’ve still got stuff all over the field,&uot; Frances said. &uot;We’re still missing our trailer.&uot;

The Michels were moving Wednesday, with help from family and friends. Christopher works for Larson Contracting, and his boss sent over a semi and some guys to help them move their things. They have also gotten help from family and the Red Cross.

Their landlords and neighbors, Nedra and Bruce Strouf, were moving downed trees, and still taking in the damage.

The Strouf farm was hit hard by the tornado, destroying barns, outbuildings, garages, and a stand of tall oak trees.

&uot;A machine shed is collapsed onto our pickup and the garage is collapsed on our jeep,&uot; Nedra said. &uot;Our barn is flat. We’ve got oak trees in our yard that have been here for years.&uot;

The tornado took out two 60-foot silos, and several small buildings are missing.

The roof of the pig barn was blown off, and neighbors have been hauling pigs all morning to other barns.

&uot;Neighbors have been here since this morning. They were here ’till 11:30 last night, way after dark,&uot; Nedra said, crying.

&uot;Everything is either totaled, damaged, or elsewhere,&uot; she said. &uot;We’re thankful that we’re here.&uot;

The tornado seemed to go around buildings with living things in them, said Nedra’s sister, Bernadene Privet – untouched were the shop where the mother cat and her kittens were, the granary the dog was hiding under, and the house where the Stroufs hid in the basement, covered by a mattress.

Shingles and siding were ripped from the house, glass broken and doors busted. It’s a mess, but not destroyed, Nedra said.

A friend has offered to lend them a mobile home so they can stay on the property while they try to manage the destruction, but farming is going to be difficult this year, Privet said.

Bruce had this season’s seed corn stored in a building that was destroyed, and his fields are full of debris that will have to be cleaned up before they can plant.

&uot;Bruce is a strong person, but he’s worse off inside than what Nedra is, because he doesn’t know what to say,&uot; Privet said. &uot;He just stares at you and tears start rolling down his face. He doesn’t know what to do.&uot;

The tornado crossed Freeborn County and passed near Oakland before entering Mower County. It destroyed several utility poles and one transformer in the northeastern section of the county, said Journeyman-Lineman Dick Nelson.

Freeborn-Mower electric has already replaced more than 20 poles between Oakland and Austin, Nelson said. With four crews working all night, borrowing some from neighboring coops, they still didn’t expect to have all their customers back on before Thursday.

Further along the tornado’s path, at Bob and Marlene Belden’s home in rural Austin, Christmas ornaments were strewn across the yard and fields. A Santa Claus figurine was stuck in a tree about 15 feet off the ground.

The Beldens were in Albert Lea at their daughter’s graduation from Riverland Community College when the tornado hit. Marlene’s sister, Julie Bjorge, was with them when they came home, about a half-hour after the tornado came through.

&uot;We followed the debris to this,&uot; Bjorge said.

Half the roof of the manufactured home was missing, and several outbuildings were destroyed.

&uot;It was devastating,&uot; Belden said. &uot;I looked at it last night, and said ‘what do you do first?’&uot;

Marlene has been sifting through her possessions, looking for irreplaceable photographs and mementos as the rain drips right into her roofless kitchen.

&uot;I think the worst part is cleaning it up,&uot; Marlene said.