Tornado 10 year anniversary: Stories of the community

Jenn Wolfenbarger 2010 Tornado.jpg
"The yellow wall is the main-floor closet where I held my 3-WEEK old baby girl in my arms along with my husband and our cat. We all climbed out following the tornado with only minor scratches. ... A day no one can deny God’s existence," Jenn Wolfenbarger said, whose home was located on 7th St. Photo courtesy of Jenn Wolfenbarger

When the tornado hit on July 17, 2010 people were scattered around town, finishing days at their jobs and coming for the all-school reunion or changing their plans last minute. The multi-vortex tornado brought Wadena to become “unrecognizable.” Families, including one with a 3-week-old baby and another with the children wondering about the noise and their ears popping, waited in their basements. When people emerged, some found destroyed homes, blown off roofs, downed trees or the end of the beginning of a “scariest ever” experience. Some who came for the all-school reunion found themselves shocked at the devastation instead, and all began to work through the destruction. The following are pieces of your stories from that day.

Editor’s note: The following Facebook comments have been edited for length and clarity.

RoxAnn Brian Boit

“My husband and I were in Sunnybrook Park wondering what the commotion was. We watched the clouds, the rain. It picked up our camper and dropped it back down … We consider ourselves lucky.”

Adria Krystal Ellsworth


"I was living in Eau Claire, Wis., and a friend informed me about the tornado … I remember driving past a home that someone had spray painted on it 'God saved us.'"

BJ Fink

"I was driving home from Detroit Lakes on Hwy 10 looking at the biggest storm cell I have ever seen in my life. Talking on my cell phone to my wife in southwest Wadena. I could hear in the background the kids saying what's that noise and my ears are popping."

Char Fischer

"Was in my basement 6 miles out of town sounded like a loud train going through the yard."

Ashley Freyholtz

"I was sucked out of my vehicle driving to Deer Creek in the one that came from Almora."

Jessica Katzenberger


"I was sitting in a bar in Swanville and saw it on the news just as my grandmother … called me to see if I was OK. … The tornado missed my childhood home by two blocks."

Anna Kemmer

"We drove through at 5:17 and saw it coming across a field. … The cows and calves were absolutely drenched in the trailers. We stopped and looked back and saw it hit from south of town. "

Brenda Kruger

"I remember how neighbors helped one another to clear the debris from the property. Salvation Army giving us something to eat, bottled water and other supplies."

Teri Jorgensen Larson

"I was gonna get to them (my family and the daycare kids) one way or another. As I walked my hometown I grew up in (I) was a mess, I cried. … To say the least it was scary and very sad. Will stay in my mind forever. "

Teresa Manselle


"Sitting in my basement on King Ave SW. Listening to loud noise, and destruction. Praying."

Cynthia Soroko

"We were getting ready for the parade that day then we heard it was cancelled. I was sitting in the front room watching it rain, when I saw it raining uphill I told the family to get in the basement quickly. The tornado just after that."

Alyssa Urlacher

"The adrenaline rush of watching the tornado blow through the neighborhood quickly disappeared as we turned the corner to see blocks of houses missing and orange checkmarks being spraypainted on any remaining doors or windows as people scouted for victims and survivors. So amazed and grateful that no one died."

Kim Uselman

"I lived north of Bluffton and watched my neighbors house across the field go up."

Kellie McManigle Mitchell


“People were getting out of their vehicles and running into the gas station with debris flying through. Sat in my vehicle and watched a 4x8 sheet of plywood fly through the intersection along with a ton of other debris.”

Charlene Rodvold Moenkedick

"(At Wensman Seed) my co-worker and I could see the funnels in the sky over Wadena. … My son called and said, 'Dad is OK, but not so much the farm, Mom.' It took me an hour to get home when it was normally a 15 minute drive. Thankful and grateful for God’s safety and provision."

Rileigh Morgan

"I was in my living room on Jackson Ave SE when the tornado hit. My little brother was bringing everything from the kitchen (food) down to the basement."

Laura Rose

“When we got closer to Wadena it was hard to grasp what we were seeing. … As we walked down the one way in front of the building, my son, Caleb, saw my parents' truck on its side in the middle of the sidewalk outside the district office with its windows all blown out. He looked up at me and said, "Does papa know that nana parked the truck like that?" Someone must have seen us coming and told my mom, because she stepped out from between some of the smashed vehicles and we ran to hug each other. My dad showed up not long after that, also happy to see that she was safe. My mom and I spent the next couple of hours walking around and taking everything in, as it was all such a shock!”

Teresa Schauer


“As I was watching out the vestibule windows from the middle of the store, I watched the sky colors change blue green and debris, dirt and garbage started mixing in the air then carts outside that were left in the parking lot just started to fly 6 feet high past the doors. Lights flickered, people scared. … I've never been scared of weather in my whole life.”

Linda Groshong Schmidt

"I was in Deer Creek in the basement with our two grandsons and my husband when it took the top of our daughter's house. We lost our home too."

Holly Sivicky

"(At Walmart) it was raining sideways, we were holding a (sic) umbrella in front of us. When we got back in … we could hear the police saying it just went through Deer Creek and its heading straight for Wadena. It went behind the store but it was so loud."

Candice Tellers

"We went into the basement and moments later, the power went out. After what felt like forever, the lights came back on. … It was surreal seeing the extent of damage as we all emerged out into the community and had to face the aftermath."

Emily Warner


“I was lifeguarding at the outdoor Wadena Pool that day … I remember, vividly, running across the road with the other guards and 2 children we had with us. The sky was green. We went to the Woods house across the street.”

Tornado home damage.jpg
Some of the worst of the damage to homes in Wadena can be seen in the southwest portion of town in this aerial photo following the tornado that destroyed large areas of the community June 17, 2010. Wadena Pioneer Journal archives

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