Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lives Changed in 30 Seconds--Twin Cities North Metro Memorial Weekend Tornados

In under a minute, life changed for so many residents of the Twin Cities north metro this past Memorial Day weekend. Several of the communities I serve as a Realtor, from Coon Rapids though Blaine, Lino Lakes and Centerville, ending in Hugo, were hit out of the beautiful blue sky by a tornado. Minnesotans were on alert all week from local weather reporters that conditions were ripe for such an event. And the unthinkable happened; the tornado took with it not only dozens homes but the smile of a two-year-old little boy.

On Monday only residents were allowed into Hugo for security and safety reasons. There are many photos of the torn apart housing development online already. We did drive by this Centerville farm that was demolished; the property was hit just moments prior to crossing 35E into Hugo. The debris from the silos is still scattered on the shoulder of the freeway on the other side of the huge farm field today.

From the time we are children, we are taught in Minnesota what to do in severe weather. We participated in tornado drills at schools. We looked to the sky when the sirens are tested on the first Wednesday of the month. We knew intellectually that tornadoes could be devastating but we always thought we would be safe in our basements.

Not so anymore as families across Anoka County and Washington County learned this past weekend. A twister is not a movie or an exciting scene on television. It can be a real event and we cannot be complacent.

We heard the rumble of the storm outside our Ham Lake home before the sirens went off. I thought it was unusual to hear an airplane flying in this weather. I clicked on the TV and heard that the storm had just hit in Coon Rapids and was heading through Blaine with reports of damage near Hwy 65 and Bunker Lake Blvd. Sirens or not, we went to the basement as I was well aware that tornadoes typically move in a northeastern direction and we directly in its path.

The alarms sounded just as we were going down the steps in our usual lackadaisical way. We sat at the bottom of the staircase; in fact I was on the steps, ready to head back up as soon as the event was over. We were just mildly concerned as we watched the minute-by-minute storm report on the portable television. The storm had change direction from its northeastern track and was now headed due east. We were thankful that it was no longer heading toward our home.

Being from the north eastern part of the Twin Cities, growing up in North St. Paul and selling homes throughout this area, I made a mental note of who was now in the storm's path. A few relatives and friends came to mind. A close friend’s business. A cousin and his wife. A young couple who moved into a home I sold last fall.

The storm ripped a line of damage through Anoka and into Washington County and literally blew apart 27 homes in Hugo. From the accounts on the news, the tornado blew through Hugo in 30 seconds. Lives were forever changed in less than a minute.
Over the last couple days, we have found that several of our friends, family members and coworkers were affected by the storm. Most had minor damage. Some lost windows. Many have hail-damaged roofs and siding or fallen trees in their yards. And then there are those who lost everything.

As I hear the stories of where people were as the storm hit, many in the safety of their basement, I began to reassess our preparedness for this event. Something about the sound of the storm was different so this time I had grabbed all of our cell phones as I went down the steps. I won’t feel so foolish about this the next time. My husband and I discussed where we plan to sit in the cellar during the next storm (northeast corner ready to head under a sturdy worktable.) We are somewhat thankful that we don’t have that walkout basement that we always wanted as we have few windows to avoid. We will be safer and more vigilant during the next storm.

It was always someone else, somewhere else…This time the storm was too close and too real for my family to ever be complacent again.

View footage of the tornado and aftermath on
YouTube by Clicking HERE.

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

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