Sarah Stultz: Covering major devastation leaves impact

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

During my 15-year career at the Tribune, some of my most memorable experiences have come from covering natural disasters — whether it be floods, tornadoes and even historic blizzards.

At times it seems that where we live is the epicenter of all kinds of unfavorable weather.

The aftermath of these disasters in many ways has been humbling to witness. While I may have forgotten many of the names of the individuals I have interviewed over the years, I will never forget their stories and the devastation that I have witnessed. I consider myself privileged to have documented their stories for our own community.

I’ll admit, those memories sometimes keep me on edge when the weather warnings come in — particularly when it involves warnings for tornadoes.

So when I saw the weather turn unfavorable last week, and the tornado watch and then the tornado warnings appeared, my mind immediately flashed back to June 17, 2010 — the year with the greatest single-day tornado total in Minnesota history. That night, the tornadoes touched down over 20 times in Freeborn County. One tornado was even an EF4, the second largest based on wind speeds and damage on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Because of the damage from that day and others, I try to take seriously the warnings from weather experts and law enforcement officials.

Last week, my family and I ventured to the basement of our home when we received an emergency alert and then heard the tornado sirens.

Trying to balance my own worries with the needs of my family and of our community, I posted updates as they became available to me as my son bounced a ball across the room, and my husband sat next to me.

Before long, the tornado warning had ended, and at first I thought we were in the clear.

I did not have a scanner going at my house so I was not immediately aware that damage had taken place until I saw a post on social media and turned on the scanner on my phone.

That night, first responders were reporting addresses to dispatchers on the scanner that had received damage, and then I saw a photo of Arcadian Bank in Hartland on Facebook, and my heart sank.

I knew it was going to be another memorable couple of days and weeks.

I’m sorry to those who have received damage — especially those who have received life-altering devastation at this time of year.

As in the past, I am also grateful to live in a community that comes together at these times and takes care of each other. Please continue to do so.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears Wednesdays.