Wadena in ruins
'Devastating' is the most commonly used word to describe the first-hand accounts of the tornado that ripped through Wadena Thursday, and the disaster it left behind.
"The area where the tornado went through was devastated," describes Becker County Deputy Dan Skoog. "I've never seen anything like it myself. I've seen pictures, and truly, it's the worst I've ever seen."
Skoog was working in the southeastern portion of Becker County, and was able to be on scene in Wadena about 45 minutes after the tornado struck.
Skoog helped with setting up barricades and patrolling the streets, trying to keep onlookers out of the area.
"Basically people who didn't reside there, we kept them out of there," he said.
"When you come in on (Highway) 10, on that corridor on the west side of the town, to the south of Highway 10, it was pretty devastating to see all of the buildings destroyed," described Scott Flynn, deputy chief with the Detroit Lakes Fire Department.
"There was a bus garage, and the buses were tipped over and cars," he continued.
The Detroit Lakes Fire Department sent nine men to assist, and Flynn said they were staged at the school, which was damaged when a chunk of the community center landed on it.
The firefighters then went door-to-door, making sure everyone was OK and accounted for, and that there were no gas leaks or power issues. Flynn said he has no idea how many houses they visited, but in the corridors they covered, he said everyone was fine.
"It was just the devastation, people were just shook up," he said.
The Detroit Lakes fire crew was there for about four and a half to five hours.
Also on scene were personnel from St. Mary's EMS.
EMS Director Dave Langworthy said he sent two ambulances and crews and an additional six personnel to help with emergency services.
"We did a standby there," he said. "The casualties were already transported to, I believe, Staples Hospital prior to our arrival there."
The entire crew was there for about an hour, and then left one ambulance and one crew there for about five hours after the rest returned to Detroit Lakes. The crews didn't have to treat any injured people.
"There were ambulance services closer to Wadena that were there before us that did some transports," Langworthy said.
He added that eight of his 10-person crew were off-duty "so that we didn't leave our town uncovered."
Langworthy, who went with the crew, described the scene as "organized chaos."
"The law enforcement was doing a good job with traffic, and they had the main road opened up, allowing us to move through very well. It was organized well, with their command center set up already. I think everyone down there deserves a congratulations on a great job.
"Driving into Wadena, on the west end, is certainly going to look different for a while," he said.
Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon sent 25 volunteers from the Mounted Posse and the part-time Auxiliary Unit to help out Thursday night also.
"Both units are First Aid trained and traffic control trained. We went over there just as a contingent force for relief for them," he said.
Skoog was sent over not only to assist, Gordon said, but to be a communications link back to this area, so it would be known how much help was needed.
The trip was short-term for the group; Gordon said most of the people sent to help were back within four hours.
Rescue personnel from Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Wolf Lake, among other places, also traveled to the city to help.
Friday morning, seven Detroit Lakes public works department workers went to lend assistance with the utilities.
Gordon is sending his Sentencing to Service crews to Wadena for at least a week to help clean up.
"Our STS crews do work locally, but the thing is on a situation like this, these STS people are more than willing to help," Gordon said.
Closer to Detroit Lakes, there was one building, a private residence with roof damage, struck in the Toad Lake area, and there was tree and power line damage, Gordon said. There was also a citizen in Pine Point that reported spotting a funnel cloud that never touched down.