Witnesses describe roar and debris of Spicer tornado
SPICER -- Dave Hammerschmidt was selling fruit this afternoon at the Country Stop outdoor stand in Spicer when he heard the approach of an apparent tornado.
"When they say roar, that's what it does," he said.
He told his three customers at the fruit stand to run for their vehicles. There was just enough time for him to grab the money box and dive into his pickup truck before the storm hit.
The produce stand was destroyed, some of the debris hitting Hammer-schmidt's truck.
Next door, Rick Seipel, the owner of the Country Stop, was in his office working on his computer when he heard the roar at about 4:40 p.m.
"The whole sky was filled with debris," he said.
A picnic table flew up and crashed into the top of Seipel's truck, which was parked outside his window.
Seipel said afterward that it was like a bomb went off.
"I turned and bolted," he said.
No injuries were reported, but the unconfirmed tornado produced widespread damage across the south side of Spicer.
The Green Lake Diamond ball field complex in southwest Spicer was reportedly hit hard, sustaining damage to sponsor signs, batting cages, the majority of the fences, and some of the field surface. The complex's new scoreboard and new press box appeared to be untouched.
Ed and Linda Sluka were in their garage when the sirens went off.
Linda Sluka said in a telephone interview that they went outside to look.
"We really didn't see a tornado," she said, but they saw heavy rotation in the clouds and saw "garbage flying" everywhere.
They live across the street from the Dethlefs Center in Spicer, which is east of the Green Lake Mall.
"We didn't want to stick around for the show," she said, so they hustled down the stairs to huddle together in a closet.
They heard a lot of noise and could hear trees breaking as the storm passed over.
In their neighborhood, a lot of trees blew down, and debris was strewn about. They could see a lot of roof damage.
The Slukas lost some shingles from their room, and a neighbor's shed ended up in the Slukas' yard.
First responders, sheriff's deputies and firefighters responded and closed the street in front of the house, she said, and first responders knocked on doors to be sure everyone was OK.
Cathy Koetter waited out the storm in her car in the Green Lake Mall parking lot.
Koetter was on her way to the bank when the tornado hit. "I saw stuff whirling," she said.
She drove quickly to the other side of the mall so that she could run inside for shelter but "it was too late."
She stayed in her car while the storm rocked the vehicle back and forth. It lasted for about one minute; afterward, Koetter went to the bank.
By this evening, volunteers had already helped clean up the fruit and vegetables that were scattered from the Country Stop's stand. Seipel and Hammerschmidt said they would have the stand up and running again by 8 a.m. Wednesday.
There was one thing Hammerschmidt managed to save: the donations he has been collecting for Rice Hospice. The jar was cracked but all the money inside was still intact.
Photo/Art Notes: 071409-Spicer