Tim Walz assesses damage in Freeborn County

Published 3:23 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

First District Congressman Tim Walz on Friday toured some of the areas ravaged by Thursday’s tornado.

“If you don’t see (the damage) you can’t believe it,” Walz said. “The sense of optimism from these people who were in a basement and plan to rebuild their century farm makes you proud to live in a place like this.”

Walz was referring to Gordon Toenges and his wife, Kathy, who were in the basement of their home on Freeborn County Road 46 when a tornado ripped through their farm.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s nothing these people can’t deal with,” Walz said.

He mentioned that he heard from residents that their neighbors, and even complete strangers, were helping in any way they could. He said his office will be there to help all these people with things like replacing Social Security cards.

“In the midst of all this they’re not worrying about that, but they will soon,” Walz said.

While walking through the Toenges farm near Alden and the homes devastated near Clarks Grove on 925th Street, Walz noted that the damage was amazing and kept saying “Wow!”

“It’s just amazing … you build a life on a beautiful farmstead like this and then it’s gone,” Walz said.

He also noted he thinks Katherine Woodside’s death was tragic. Her husband, Ron, is in Rochester with cuts and arm injuries.

Walz left Washington, D.C., this morning to be able to see the damage in Freeborn County. Sheriff Mark Harig escorted Walz on his tour of damaged homes. Harig explained to Walz that there could have been as many as 25 tornadoes Thursday, and the largest cell of multiple tornadoes was estimated at a half-mile wide.

Walz and Harig also talked about the communication between responders, and Harig said it would have been nice if the new REACT radio system had been in place, allowing communication over multiple channels.

“Having multiple agencies communicating with each other can be the difference between life or death,” Walz said.

Walz said he was monitoring the weather situation Thursday while in Washington, D.C., and said he knew it was bad when he heard Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh on The Weather Channel.