School buses were smashed like tin cans. Headstones were toppled, one even reported missing. Houses, entire neighborhoods were shredded and rendered unrecognizable. Ask any observer and they’ll say it was a war zone. But from the meteorological view, things get a little more technical. Here’s how the National Weather Service in Grand Forks defines the Almora and Wadena tornadoes.

“The Almora-Bluffton, Minnesota tornado was rated as an EF4, with peak winds estimated to 175 mph. This tornado made its initial touchdown about 3 miles north-northeast of Leaf Valley, MN around 3:45 pm CDT. The damage path continued to about 2 miles west of Parkers Prairie, passing just south of Almora, MN, just east of Deer Creek and just west of Bluffton, before lifting about 10 miles north of Bluffton around 4:45 p.m. Damage with this tornado complex extended out as much as 1.3 miles wide at times along the 39 mile path. The most extreme damage was located along Ottertail County Road 143, west and southwest of Bluffton, where several homes and farmsteads were completely destroyed. In addition, several vehicles were propelled hundreds of feet through the air while numerous trees were shredded and debarked. This tornado also produced one fatality just south of Almora, shortly before 4 p.m.

That fatality was 78-year-old Margie Schulke.

Margie and her husband Norman lived in a mobile home about 5 miles from Parkers Prairie. Norman was seriously injured with broken shoulders, collar bone and ribs. He was found in a ditch after being thrown from the home, according to an article in the Reporter, the official newspaper of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Along with Schulke, Wes Michaels of Mentor, died while protecting his daughter and others from storm debris at his family-owned Cenex gas station.

The other fatality was reported west of Albert Lea. Kathy Woodside, 66, was killed when a tornado destroyed her farmhouse and barn.

Graphic by Todd Krause/National Weather Service in Chanhassen
A map of the final 2010 tornado count shows above average activity in Minnesota. The June 17 EF4 tornadoes of Otter Tail and Wadena counties are shown in red with their respective paths.
Graphic by Todd Krause/National Weather Service in Chanhassen A map of the final 2010 tornado count shows above average activity in Minnesota. The June 17 EF4 tornadoes of Otter Tail and Wadena counties are shown in red with their respective paths.

The Wadena tornado was rated as an EF4, with peak winds estimated to 170 mph. This tornado made its initial touchdown about 3 miles south-southwest of Wadena around 5 p.m. CDT, and produced a continuous damage path through Wadena before lifting about 7 miles north-northeast of town by 5:18 p.m. CDT. Damage with this tornado extended as much as 1.1 miles wide at times along the 10 mile north-northeast directed path. The most extreme damage was located from the southwest Wadena residential area into the industrial area located between the high school and the Highway 10 corridor. Several homes were completely destroyed, as were several industrial or warehouse structures. In addition, several school buses and other vehicles were propelled through the air up to a few hundred feet.

This multi-vortex tornado consisted of multiple tornado tubes pivoting around a common center, each tube acting singularly or in concert to produce areas of EF1 to EF4 damage, in a path that varied from 0.1 to 1.3 miles in width. For most of this tornado’s 39-mile path, the team was able to find a consistent core with EF2 or greater damage, with smaller areas of embedded EF3 to EF4 damage.”

The National Weather Service in Chanhassen reported 113 tornadoes in 2010. The most ever recorded on one day in Minnesota was 48, occurring on that fateful day of June 17, 2010.