Tornadoes have a long devastating history in Minnesota

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor

Minnesotans were quite fortunate to escape any serious storm damage until recently when devastating tornadoes struck north Minneapolis. Residents are still trying to recover from these damaging storms.


We read a few weeks ago in this column about preparedness to be taken in case of tornadoes. The south was smacked by some severe tornadoes earlier this month.

As we look back in our Minnesota history books, we will see that many of our communities have experienced disastrous tornadoes. Most reports echo one another in stating that “everything was flattened,” or “the sound of the strong winds was like the sound of a locomotive.”

With modern advances in technology to track tornadoes on radar and with technological advances in communications, we are able to see some unbelievable images, video and still photos, of tornadoes heaping damage onto a community. Storm trackers are everywhere and that was quite evident in Forest Lake last week when videos recorded a tornado touching down just east of Forest Lake.

Jessica Kohen, our wonderful contact at the Minnesota Historical Society, sent us a release recently about a new book published about the devastating tornado that struck Wadena, MN in June of 2010.

One year after tornadoes devastated their community, Wadena County residents will launch “Twisted Together by an EF4,” a book that shares and preserves incredible stories of the two EF4 tornadoes that destroyed homes, farms and Wadena-Deer Creek High School in June of 2010.

A Wadena book launch is planned from 1-3 p.m. on Friday, June 17, 2011 for “Twisted Together by an EF4” at the Wadena County Historical Society, 603 Jefferson St. North, Wadena. There is no cost. For more information, contact 218-631-9079.

More than a dozen Wadena County residents, ages 12-80, worked with a journalist, a book designer and oral history experts over several months to create the book.


“The sound of the glass and the community center metal roof falling on my house was just deafening.

It spooked the dog; he ran upstairs, and without thinking I followed him. As soon as I got to him in the living room the house had caved in on both me and the dog and I was pinned down under the debris….

What saved my life was the dorm-type refrigerator my son had in the living room next to where I fell. It held everything up from falling on us….it was the refrigerator of my son’s that saved my life, and the will of God, of course.”      –Rodney Tucker, Wadena

“Twisted Together by an EF4” will be available June 17, 2011 as part of the city’s June Jubilee celebration. The book launch also features a performance of “Happy Days Are Here Again: Uplifting Songs of the 1930s and 40s with Rhonda Laurie,” food from the Harvest Thyme Bistro and raffle prizes.


Book proceeds will benefit the local Disaster Relief Committee and the Wadena County Historical Society.

The book is part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s “Sharing Community Stories” program where people of all ages share personal and community-based stories and work with creative partners to create lasting works inspired by those stories.

This program is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008.

The Society’s calendar of events is posted online at The website also has information about all of the Society’s programs, museums and historic sites.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. Its essence is to illuminate the past as a way to shed light on the future. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing.

If you wish more Minnesota history on tornadoes, go to the Minnesota Historical Society website at and search Minnesota tornadoes.The search will send you to a page about field trips for children that include experiencing a tornado. Links are also provided to history on the first tornado in Minnesota and to a story about a tornado painting.

The Minnesota History Center is the perfect field trip destination for children of all ages. Register today for the Summer Time Package, developed especially for school age care groups. Play historic games, climb through a Grain Elevator, create your own make-it take-it craft project, experience a tornado, and meet a character from Minnesota’s past!

Reservations should be made at least two weeks in advance. Call 651-259-3400 or send an online request.

Go to Google and type in the same as above, Minnesota tornadoes. Go to link of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group. It’s located at

Let’s read: In Minnesota, tornadoes have occurred in every month from March through November. The earliest verified tornado in Minnesota occurred on March 18, 1968, north of Truman, and the latest in any year on November 16, 1931, east of Maple Plain. Historically and statistically, June is the month of greatest frequency with July not far behind. May has the third greatest frequency, followed closely by August. Nearly 3/4 of all tornadoes in Minnesota have occurred during the three months of May (15%), June (37%), and July (25%).

The most probable danger period in Minnesota, therefore, is late spring and early summer, between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. However, tornadoes can and do occur at any time of the day or night. On April 14, 1886 (4 p.m.) the deadliest tornado in Minnesota history razed parts of St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids, leaving 72 dead and 213 injured. 11 members of a wedding party were killed including the bride and groom.


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