It seemed as if everyone had a story after Friday's tornadoes laid a path of destruction in northern Wadena and the south half of Hubbard counties. From the air, the hopscotch pattern where the twister touched down appears random. As Gov. Tim Pawlenty remarked after he flew over the storm's path Monday morning, "Mother nature is a force we have to respect."
Regardless of where tornadoes land, two things always seem true. Several people said they had experienced tornadoes before and the sound of a train that accompanies the wind, rain and flying debris is one they'll never forget. "The sound was terrible," one resident said.
The second is the odd juxtaposition of things damaged and untouched. Joann Pratt found their fieldstone fireplace destroyed with a box of neatly stacked firewood untouched. From the air, two mobile homes appeared to be undamaged but the tornado took a swath of trees in their backyards.
Several people said the tornado passed over so quickly they had no time to collect others in their households and herd them downstairs.
Late Friday afternoon, a friend on Pickerel Lake said she was baking bars. "What else do you do for comfort when you're stressed," she said.
Angie Voigt was at the Park Rapids Municipal Airport and hadn't heard a weather report. She went out on the apron to look at the sky and said she saw the storm split to the north and south. She and others said they saw "horizontal rain" for the first time in their lives.
Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers and sheriff Gary Mills were heading north on CSAH 4 when he saw funnel clouds divide. He saw white and thought Mills had been swept up. Fortunately, that was not the case.
And fortunate was the word of the day Saturday as more people learned about and saw more of the damage. Park Rapids could have been wiped out. If the tornadoes had come on a Saturday, people would have been killed. Everyone was counting their own and the community's blessings. We dodged the bullet.
We're not done though. There is work to be done: debris is strewn as far north as Schoolcraft Lake, perhaps farther. Some is in fields. Yellow Styrofoam rims some lakes and needs to be removed.
Timber also needs to be dealt with and fairly quickly. Mark Carlstrom, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Area Forester, recalls when straight line winds blew down an estimated 6.5 million trees in parts of seven northern Minnesota counties in July 1995.
There are two things to consider, he says. Heat and humidity will damage fallen trees in just a few weeks, making them unmarketable, property owners should contact the forestry office at 732-3309 for more information. The more quickly fallen timber is cleaned up, the easier it will be to help stop infestation of pine bark beetles .
In the meantime, we may all count our blessings.
-- Park Rapids Enterprise