Your Letters: The sirens and the June 17 tornadoes
This is my experience with the tornado sirens on June 17.
I live about 1/2 mile south of the southernmost houses in Wadena that were hit by the tornado. I was watching the weather on the computer and knew there were two severe thunderstorms headed generally to the northeast. The smaller of the two looked like it would hit Wadena so I was a little concerned. At about 4:30 p.m., I heard the siren going in town in reference to the tornado that passed close to Deer Creek and Bluffton. I could hear the siren plainly as usual from my place.
We went to the basement for awhile and after a while I came up out of the basement to have a look. The siren had turned off. I watched out the southwest window of my house as the main part of the second thunderstorm passed. Most of the rain was just to the west maybe a half mile but I was concerned about a small dark cloud I saw to the southwest. There was no wind at all outside. That worried me. I started to hear thumping on the house that sounded like large hail but I looked out the window and saw no hail. I later surmised that had been debris coming out of the clouds. I kept watching because I was really worried now.
I kept listening specifically all the while for the siren in town but there was none. I kept watching to the southwest as I have a good view out the southwest corner of my house. My wife and youngest daughter were just coming up from the basement and were at the top of the stairs. All at once I saw the clouds just past the top of my warehouse moving perpendicular to me faster than I had ever seen clouds move in my life. There was no siren blowing. I hollered at my wife and daughter to get back in the basement. They didn't hesitate. It took about 10 seconds from the time I saw the tornado until it hit. I made it to just about the bottom of the basement stairs when the door to our southwest room slammed really hard. I was pretty sure the house was going to peel off over our heads but it didn't. I'm guessing it was about 15 seconds and the tornado was gone. I went back upstairs in not more than a minute and tried to call 911, I couldn't get through, and there was still no siren. I remember thinking that it was pretty dumb trying 911 because the tornado had to be in town already and the people in town have to know it's there.
When the tornado entered my yard it was traveling from the southwest. When it left my yard it was traveling almost straight north. While it was devastating for people in its path it was fortunate that it traveled in the direction that it did. If it had continued in its original direction it would have traveled through about three times more residential area.
The reaction of emergency personnel was exemplary and I'm just reporting my experience.