Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate
Topics

A tornado, up close and personal

These photographs, shot by Sean Stavast, show the aftermath of today’s storm in the neighborhood around the 4600, 4700 and 4800 blocks of Park Avenue. Something powerful roared through my south Minneapolis neighborhood at 1:52 p.m. today.

These photographs, shot by Sean Stavast, show the aftermath of today’s storm in the neighborhood around the 4600, 4700 and 4800 blocks of Park Avenue.

Something powerful roared through my south Minneapolis neighborhood at 1:52 p.m. today. I never heard my wife scream like she did. I hope to God I never do again.

If this wasn’t a tornado, I don’t want to know what is. I was upstairs working on my laptop, a steady rain pattering on the roof, when I heard a muscular roar of wind. I’ve been through two hurricanes, but nothing sounded as intense as this. I ran to close the nearest open window, fearful the wind might blow a bucketful of rain into the house.

That’s when I heard a crash, and my wife scream.

By the time I ran down the stairs — it took maybe five seconds — the roar had subsided.

We were lucky. The wind knocked over our patio table, shattering the glass top in a million pieces. Some leaves and small braches landed in the yard, and the force of the wind flattened leaves against our garage door. That’s all the damage I can see so far, though I haven’t checked our roof for missing shingles.

Our neighbors on Park Avenue, one block away, weren’t so lucky. By the damage I saw, the tornado — that’s what the weather people are calling it now — appeared to run straight down Park, uprooting trees between 47th and 48th streets. A huge, old maple at the corner of 48th and Park had been yanked out of the ground, as if pulled by a giant hand. Trees crashed onto or through multiple roofs on the west side of Park. A neighbor who rode her bicycle home from downtown reported similar damage to homes along Portland Avenue south of S. 42nd Street.

Another huge tree fell across 47th Street between Oakland Avenue and Park; police have blocked off the impassible street.

Tom Clark, a meteorologist for television station WNEP in Moosic, Penn., captured video of a tornado moving across south Minneapolis with his iPhone on August 19, 2009. Posted at YouTube by MPR.

We never heard a warning siren before the storm hit. Neither did my neighbors. It went off after the tornado passed. 

Minneapolis police responded quickly. One young officer walked though our yard making sure everyone was all right. Xcel Energy restored power to our neighborhood around 4 p.m.

But already, we have gawkers with cell phone cameras driving through the neighborhood viewing the damage, and vultures from tree services passing out their business cards on the street. Are you serious? Give it a rest, all of you.

And here’s the amazing part: Two blocks east of Park, in the business district at 48th and Chicago Avenue, you’d never know anything happened. Not a petal missing from the hanging plants on the lamppost, not a splinter of wood in the street. At 4:45 p.m., the sun is trying to come out. Now, I think we can breathe.

I think I’ll go home and hug my wife.