Stories from Sunday's storm

'STUFF WAS FLYING'
2011-05-23T10:45:00Z 2011-05-23T11:06:22Z Stories from Sunday's stormTribune staff Winona Daily News
May 23, 2011 10:45 am  • 

-- Dylan Rude had a close encounter with a tornado while playing softball two years ago in his native Austin, Minn. So when the civil defense sirens went off Sunday afternoon while he was working at Kmart, he took his task very seriously: shepherding customers to the layaway area of the store. About two dozen people took shelter, including some who had checked out, gone outside and returned. 

"Stuff was flying. It didn't seem like everything was going in the same direction," Rude said, noting that the storm sounded like a loud rumble, "almost like a train sound." The Kmart roof, which was damaged in a storm almost 18 years ago, now sports a hole above the women's wear section. "I was having a pretty lame Sunday until I came to work," Rude said.

The two eastbound lanes on State Road were blocked for a time on the east side of the railroad overhead from a tree downed, but a city front end loader made quick work of moving it. Still, State Road and Losey Boulevard seemed as if it was Christmas shopping season, there was so much traffic for the first couple hours after the storm moved through.

-- Andy Peterson should've parked in his usual spot. Instead, the 19-year-old Kwik Trip employee parked his 2008 bright yellow Pontiac G5 behind the building at 2506 South Ave. where a tree collapsed on the car.

"I knew it was supposed to storm, but I didn't know this was going to happen," Peterson said. He was working while the storm hit with a store full of customers. "I saw a big flash and then the power line went down," Peterson said. About 30 people huddled inside the two bathrooms. After the storm, Peterson went outside to see his car with a tree canopy. His parents, Jeff and Lisa, came quickly to help - with a chain saw. About three-quarters of the car looked fine - the other quarter was questionable. Andy slowly backed his car out from under the tree. "Did I get lucky?" he asked his parents. No dents, no broken glass, maybe a couple of scratches. "It can all be fixed," Jeff Peterson said. "That's what you have insurance for."

-- Katie Barbour, 24, was busy cleaning at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Synod of America, off of South Avenue. "I think you should go get cover," mom told her by phone. Barbour and another woman huddled in the cinder brick utility closet. "There was a rumble," Barbour said. "I got the feeling something wasn't right." Then there was calm. "It was so quick - maybe 30 seconds to a minute," Barbour said. They left the building, immediately seeing bricks all around.

At first, she didn't think it was that big of a deal. Then she saw the Bakalars Sausage building and another nearby whose roof had caved in. "I think I just lived through a tornado," she updated her Facebook status. "I'm so thankful I'm OK," Barbour said.

-- The historic Gund Brewery Lofts sign now says "ofts." The apartment building was in the path of the tornado with bricks flying off the building. Linda Stollenwerk, who lives there, had just gotten tacos for her 4-year-old twins. Doors flew open and dust covered the hallways. "I was terrified," Stollenwerk said. She grabbed a child under each arm and headed for the basement. "It was crazy," Stollenwerk said. Cars in the parking lot were covered with leaves. Several had broken windows. "Mess, mess, mess," summed up 16-month-old Alexa Snow.

-- The tornado destroyed Edward O'Connor's 20-by-22 garage at 1251 Green Bay. He made it into his basement through a trap door minutes before the tornado moved through."It did sound like a freight train moving through," O'Connor said. "Somehow we got out without a scratch." His house did not. Shattering glass covered his living room carpet. Tree limbs littered his enclosed porch. "There's half of my garage down my alley," he said.

-- Edward O'Connor knows the legend that tornadoes don't strike where three rivers meet is just a legend. O'Connor and his wife, Paula, and their 2-year-old son, were in the living room of their brick house on the corner of West Avenue and Green Bay Street when the tornado came barreling down the street. It punched out his living room windows, came inside and trashed the living room. It threw a four-by-four though the porch door, and left some siding that O'Connor can't identify. Out back, the garage was demolished, and the family van's window's shattered. The family was trying to get to the basement through a trap door when it hit, but no one was injured.

His cat, Celtic, was still missing hours after the twister had passed. Neighbors milled around, snapping cell phone photos and taking in the destruction. "That old Indian tale is a big fat lie," O'Connor said. "Now I know what one sounds like."

 

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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