RURAL REDWOOD COUNTRY - The morning after a tornado demolished three greenhouses, ravaged other structures and left countless plants and flowers strewn about their farm, Mark and Suzanne Schmiesing halted their cleanup and took their family to church.
"My wife asked me if I thought we should stay home and keep cleaning up," Mark Schmiesing said. "I said, 'No. We're going to church and thank God for keeping you guys safe.'"
Schmiesing and his oldest son, Isaac, 12, were a mile-and-a-half away when the storm hit Saturday afternoon. Suzanne Schmiesing was home with their three youngest children - Alex, 9, Emily 5, and Annika, 3 - at the time.
Photo by David Bitton
This funnel cloud touched down at approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Garvin Fire Department Assistant Chief David Bitton said it was difficult to tell where exactly this twister touched down. The National Weather Service received multiple reports of funnels with brief touchdowns in Redwood County. This photo was taken from U.S. Highway 59, outside of Garvin.
"We had a thunderstorm, with hail, rain and lightning," she said. "We had gone into the house because it was bad. I was looking at the radar and it seemed like it quit. The sun came out and I looked up at the sky. It was clear."
The three youngest Schmiesing children got cups out of the kitchen and were excited about scooping up marble- and pea-size hailstones. In the meantime, Schmiesing, who operates a family flower business, got a call from a customer. Ironically, Saturday was the first day Schmiesing Flower Farm was open for the season.
"I didn't have my shoes on so I was in the house talking to them," Schmiesing said. "All of sudden, the wind came up. So I said, 'I have to go' and I ran outside in my stocking feet. I saw the trampoline fly up over our house into the tree. I remember yelling for my kids because I didn't know where they were."
The three children had taken shelter in the garden shed near the house. Schmiesing was beyond relieved after seeing them safely tucked under the benches. The entire experience, she estimated, lasted less than eight minutes.
"My 5-year-old had grabbed my 3-year-old and brought her in," she said. "She actually had a state-wide tornado drill on Thursday in school (in Wabasso), so she knew what to do."
After determining the kids were OK and making a frantic phone call to her husband, Schmiesing went searching for the family's two dogs. One was barking at the other one, she said. In addition to the three demolished greenhouses, the Schmiesings also had severe damage to a number of other outbuildings. Luckily, they said, three-quarters of their plants survived.
"Maybe people think of it as a total loss, but it's amazing how many plants survived," Suzanne Schmiesing said.
The family was thankful their house and farm animals were spared.
"You have to be positive and think on the bright side," Mark Schmiesing said. "I'm happy my wife and kids are alive. Iron can be replaced, but not your family or your health."
The Schmiesings, who live less than 6 miles from Lucan and about 10 miles from Walnut Grove, said a neighbor who lives less than two miles to the north said he was looking out the window that afternoon. That neighbor is one of many who have stopped at the Schmiesings to help out.
"I couldn't believe the outpouring of support," Schmiesing said. "This morning, I think I counted upwards of 50 people here. And they stayed and they brought food. It was unbelievable and overwhelming."
A large number of people generously donated their time, Mark Schmiesing said, to help pick up the pieces in the yard and put flowers back in pots.
"We have a big family and a lot of friends," he said. "We can be thankful for that."
Insurance won't cover the damage of any of the plants, but the Schmiesings are hoping to recoup their losses on the buildings.
Ironically, the family had just recently put the finishing touches on the greenhouses, after they received damage in the July 1 storm. Once again, they're looking towards the future.
"We'll definitely be rebuilding," Suzanne Schmiesing said. "It's our way of life."
The National Weather Service out of Minneapolis said there were multiple reports of funnel clouds in southwest Minnesota on Saturday between 3:20-4 p.m.
Farther north, in Milan in Chippewa County, there was a report of another possible touchdown during that same period that damaged a barn and granaries.
Jim Richardson, a meteorologist with the NWS out of Minneapolis, said there was just enough instability in the air to cause the tornadoes but not enough to keep them around for very long.
"There was quite a strong upper air trough and that was reflected at the surface as well," Richardson said.
Kyle Weisser, a meteorologist with the NWS out of Sioux Falls, S.D., said Sunday's storm system, while producing the same outcome as last week's, came about in a different way.
"Last Sunday you had a southerly flow ahead of low pressure; this one was right along a weak front with strong northwest winds. Totally different scenarios."