Though I wouldn’t arrive in the world for another 4 years, this story describes a weather event that almost obliterated my hometown and another small town 9 miles south of it. In 1992, the most powerful tornado of a five-day weather outbreak touched down in extreme southwest Minnesota.
In its hour-long life, the twister came within less than a mile of my grandparents’ farmstead—the place where my father and grandfather both grew up. I was raised there, too, after my grandparents moved to town and my parents purchased the farm.
The tornado packed winds in excess of 260 mph, measured three-quarters of a mile in width, and left a path of destruction 35 miles long through three counties. Hardest hit were the towns of Chandler and Lake Wilson, both with a population of about 300.
Minnesota has experienced only eight F5 tornadoes (most powerful and destructive) since 1883. Less than one-tenth of one percent of all tornadoes in the United States are F5 tornadoes, now classified on an enhanced scale (EF).
Severe storms and occasional tornadoes are part of the fabric of the Midwest, a normal part of life for everyone living there. Weather watches and warnings, approaching thunderheads—they’re nothing we get too excited about. But every once in a while, we see the norm shattered, and someone in a storm’s path never sees those things the same again.
The following are stories told by individuals—a few of them who I came to know well—who experienced everything firsthand on that historic day.
June 16, 1992
Read the full story in your Tuesday, June 16th Times-Record. Purchase your paper copy of today’s paper at the TR office (146 3rd St NE, Valley City), local gas stations and grocery stores or an electronic copy by clicking subscribe in the top left corner of the www.times-online.com home page.