First of a three-part series
TYLER - Wendy Peters and her boss Larry Wyttenback were at work at Sturdevant's Auto Parts when the late-day storm that produced an F2 tornado swept toward Tyler last July 1.
"I was outside talking to our neighbor," Wyttenback said. "I looked up and said, 'Oh my God!' He said, 'What?' I said, 'Look!' It was a solid wall of putrid green."
The Danebod Church rectory lost some large trees and sustained damage to the roof and siding in last July’s storm.
Wyttenback went back into the store across from the Tyler co-op grain elevator. The store, though built of solid block, has no basement.
"I said, 'Should we go somewhere?'" Peters said. "He said, 'There's nowhere to go, just stay behind me.'"
Peters said they couldn't see across the street through the wall of rain.
"I heard the crack," Wyttenback said. "Later I saw the bin wrapped around the other, like someone took his hand and molded it."
When Wyttenback went home after the storm, he couldn't get his car down the street because of the tree debris fallen across the road.
"I lost the largest tree in Tyler," Wyttenback said. "Five people could put their arms around it. The guy who cut it said it was 250 years old."
The National Weather Service said the tornado touched down on the southwestern side of Tyler and stayed down for about three miles. It was a quarter-mile wide and brought winds of about 115 miles per hour.
The grain elevator in town was repaired, but age and cumulative damage had taken its toll and it is now closed and scheduled to be demolished.
"The tornado kind of wrecked it and it wasn't OSHA compliant," said employee Gary Lund. "They didn't want to spend the money to make it compliant."
Lund said the elevator is scheduled to be demolished at the end of July.
Gary Manson, co-owner of the Log Cabin restaurant, was at work when the storm hit.
"We were holding the windows closed," Manson said. "The signs were destroyed and the canopy outside. Plus we had a flood inside. We never closed though. We cooked for two days with gas, we didn't have electricity. A friend brought a generator to keep our freezers and cooler going."
The restaurant's signs were repaired after two months, but the Mansons still have damage at their home on the northwest corner of town.
"We had to replace the roof on the house, and the garage," Manson said. "We lost 22 trees and they're not all gone yet. We've still got lots of stumps, trees half broke off and some laying against the others."
The Danebod Church and Folk School sustained a lot of damage, all except the stone hall, according to church secretary Jolean Faaborg. All other buildings required new siding to roofs, and the grove of trees that used to screen the complex from U.S. Highway 14 was completely destroyed.
"You couldn't see anything outside the windows," Faaborg said. "We had a family reunion so we went to the basement dining hall. But nobody got hurt or died, which is amazing."