‘I’d take a fire over a tornado’

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Many properties were affected near this town by the June 17 tornado outbreak, including the Tukua family on 690th Avenue northwest of Manchester.

“We’re so numb from this,” Janice Tukua said. “This has taken a toll on us.”

The night of June 17, Janice and her husband, Ellwood, were in the basement watching the weather on television. When they started to see the trees sway outside their window, they decided to go hide in their bathroom, which has no windows.

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Ellwood said he felt pressure in his ears during the tornado, but all Janice described was hearing the house being torn apart. Neither were hurt, though both were shocked when they looked outside after the tornado passed.

“The beauty of this place is gone,” Janice said. “About 350 trees were lost.”

That may seem like an unimaginable amount of trees, but there was a thick grove of trees surrounding their land that acted as a windbreak.

“About 40 years ago we planted those trees,” Janice said. “It’s hard to believe a storm can do that much damage.”

Along with the trees, they lost a garage, a bin and three outbuildings. They also lost a motor home they had parked outside; it tipped over and is uninhabitable. Their home is also uninhabitable because of the amount of roof damage. They are currently living in their daughter’s motor home but on their own property.

She said she is very thankful for the food and water provided by the Freeborn County chapter of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the West Freeborn Lutheran Church and all the volunteers who helped these organizations.

“I can’t say enough about them,” Janice said. “Everyone appreciated the sandwiches and water.”

Though they still have a lot of cleaning to do, friends and family of theirs have come out to help. Janice said even people she didn’t know have come to help out. When they started the cleanup process, she said they had a hard time deciding where to start because the amount of damage was so overwhelming.

The Tukuas don’t know if they want to rebuild yet or not and said the process is hard. They lost their home on the same property to a fire 16 years ago and don’t know if they want to start over again.

“I’d take a fire over a tornado any day,” Ellwood said.

Though they’re facing hardship and a lot of work, they can still find the humor in the situation. They smiled while sharing the story that a neighbor of theirs found Ellwood’s parents’ marriage certificate in their field and returned it to Ellwood.

“I didn’t even know we had it,” Ellwood said with a laugh.