EF-2 tornado hits 100 homes, buildings near Forada – Alexandria Echo Press


FORADA — “It was quite something,” said Stephen VanLuik. “It’s a mess.”

VanLuik, Forada fire chief who has been with the department for 33 years, was referring to the tornado that ripped through his town Memorial Day Monday, May 30, around 4:30 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service from the Twin Cities, the tornado, which was about a half mile wide, was labeled as an EF-2 with max wind speeds of 120 miles per hour. After hitting Forada, which has a population of 199, the tornado continued to the northeast across Douglas County.

Storm damage has also been reported near Nelson and Osakis, with several farms receiving extensive damage.

A farm that Joel Dahlheimer grew up in along Genes Barn Road (County Road 17), about a mile and a half southwest of Nelson, received quite a bit of damage. Fortunately, the house on the property, which Dahlheimer recently sold, appeared undamaged.

However, the house across the road, owned by Dahlheimer’s son and daughter-in-law, Tyler and Amber Dahlheimer, had several trees on the roof and there were lots of trees down on the property.

Joel Dahlheimer’s house, which is next to his son’s, was undamaged. He reported other damage to the farm site, including two concrete silos that were partially knocked down (the top halves), a larger silo damaged, the remodeled barn roof damaged, farm equipment overturned (trailers and an auger), a smaller shed was picked up and set down away from its foundation and lots of downed trees.

‘It makes your stomach drop’

One of the first reports of the tornado hitting Forada came into the Douglas County Dispatch Center at 4:34 p.m. According to the Douglas County sheriff’s blotter, a resident along South Maple Lake Road SE reported their house had been destroyed.

The EF-2 tornado hit about a two-mile stretch around the Forada area, causing severe damage to homes not only along Maple Lake Road SE, but more so along Forada Beach Road SE.

More than 100 homes and buildings were hit by the tornado, said VanLuik.

“It makes your stomach drop,” said VanLuik, whose own house was not damaged. “But it was unbelievable how much they cleaned up today (Tuesday, May 31). I drove around the area at about 9:30 a.m. and it was worse than I thought. But when I drove back around at about 1:30 p.m., a lot had already been cleaned up. A little while ago (around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday), I drove around again and I was like, ‘Wow! They really got it cleaned up.’ Some people were even raking their lawns.”

While out weather spotting on Monday afternoon, VanLuik said he was called away for a family emergency in Glenwood. While driving back, he said he was in contact with his firefighters and told them to get prepared as it was coming their way.

“I was driving right into it on my way back to Forada,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was a tornado because it was raining so hard. I could hear this roar and thought the radio was making noise so I shut it off but the noise was still going.”

Don Peschel, former Brandon-Evansville superintendent who lives on Maple Lake, said he saw and heard the tornado.

“It was coming right for our neighborhood and hit the water and went east,” he said. “The places right across the lake from me are destroyed and it looks like a war zone. The sound was so crazy, I had to cover my ears.”

Long-time Forada resident and city council member, Scott Erickson, was outside in his yard keeping an eye on the weather when the winds picked up.

“I didn’t see the tornado, but it got so windy that there was stuff blowing around,” said Erickson, who has lived in Forada for about 50 years. “I decided to go in and went into the garage and boom, a tree hit the house. I thought, ‘This is for real.’ ”

Erickson said he then made it to the last step going down to his basement when all the noise and racket stopped and it got super quiet. He thought it was the calm before the storm, but when he went back upstairs and outside to check, it was all over.

“It didn’t take but about 15 seconds and it was done,” he said, adding that a second blast of wind did blow through a short time later.

This was the first time ever, Erickson said, that he had storm damage like this to his property. His house was damaged, along with his shop and a lot of trees are down, too.

“It was pretty wild,” he said.

Fund set up to help Forada residents

Forada Mayor David Reller said a fund has been set up to help Forada residents. People who want to donate, can do so at the

Hometown Community Bank

in Forada. Cash or checks can be dropped off or mailed to the bank, c/o Forada Tornado Relief Fund, at 10635 Toby’s Avenue SE, Alexandria MN, 56308. The bank is actually located at the corner of County Road 4 SE and Toby’s Avenue SE in Forada.

In addition, there has been a designated spot for residents of Forada to bring their tree and brush waste. They can go on County Road 4 east to Pine Tree Lane South to the designated area.

To get to the tree/brush dump site near Forada, go on County Road 4 east to Pine Tree Lane South to the designated area.

Contributed map

Despite the devastation of his town, Reller said things are good because there has been “spectacular and timely help and support.”

“We have community support, support from the DNR, support from the county, it’s been good,” he said, noting that they have yet to get support from the state but he’s hopeful that it will come.

From a city standpoint, he said they are working on getting a site set up for people to bring their trash and that he and the council members are trying to be there as much as possible for the residents. The hard part, he said, is that all of them are dealing with their own damage.

He said the city clerk/treasurer, Jo Kluver, lost her house and that other council members, Bob Verkinderen, Mitch Critz and Scott Erickson, all had lots of damage, too.

“We are all a part of this community and all in this together, too,” he said.

Reller said his own house and property were damaged and that he lost a lot of trees.

His four grandkids lost their climbing tree, he said.

“They are going to be very disappointed about losing that tree,” he said.

Echo Press photographer Lowell Anderson contributed to this article.