Second of a three-part series.
It's been a year since a storm packing tree-toppling winds, hail and heavy rain interrupted what had been a peaceful
weekday evening. A day after the storm, Independent staff writer Jenny Kirk took a drive down U.S. Highway 59 South
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Last July, Jeanette and Everett Boerboom received extensive damage to a property they rent out.
to assess the damage as rural Lyon County residents began picking up the pieces. Last week, she took that same route, only to discover that despite a lot of hard work, things aren't close to being back to normal one year later.
A year after the damaging July 1 wind storm burst through the Marshall area, rural homeowners are still picking up the pieces.
Traveling down U.S. Highway 59, south of Marshall, one can see that many of those affected have cleaned up, rebuilt or remodeled, but some are still in the process. Jim and Teah Swenson, along with their three children, suffered the loss of two large sheds, a silo and other buildings on two of their farm sites last year.
"We haven't been back to normal yet," Jim Swenson said. "We've been busy personally and we've been busy at Action Sports. This is all added work. I would say, we'll get back to normal in about 2015."
In the past year, the Swensons have sold the home they were living in when the devastating storm came through and are making plans to build a house on their other farm site half a mile away.
"Jim did all the work, re-shingling and repairing the roof," said Justin "J.T." Thordson, who, along with his family, took ownership of the farm this month.
While the house was restored to its original condition, the 120-by-60 foot shed that was dismantled in the storm was not. A level piece of land, with puddles remaining from the previous night's rain, is all that exists in the shed's place.
"The whole shed pretty much ended up on (Randy) Sook's property last year," Thordson said. "When it started to hail here (June 18), I started to wonder if it was happening again."
In October, the Swensons put up a brand new shed on their current farm site, but still have much work to do.
"The new shed is one-and-a-half times bigger than the one that blew over at the old place," Swenson said. "That got hauled to the dump. It took all fall. But we still haven't cleaned up the silo that fell over at the new place. That will be this year's project."
While things are still a little "helter skelter," Swenson said he appreciates the progress that has already been made.
"We had a lot of friends and family help with the cleanup," he said. "We just have to continue making time to get everything done. We're thankful that we can just focus on one place now."
When Greg Deutz and his oldest son Kenny came up from the basement after the storm, the scene was chaotic.
"I saw a mess," Greg Deutz said. "The storm wrecked a couple of barns and took the roof off the milking barn. We also lost a garage and a grain bin."
Deutz counts his blessings on two accounts: the rest of the family was away from home that night and the family didn't lose any cows in the storm.
"We're always thankful when nobody gets hurt," he said.
The cows did have a tough summer, though, Deutz said, especially because of the excessive heat.
"There was no way for the cows to get away from the heat," he said.
The crops also took a beating in the July 1 storm.
"We definitely had crop damage," Deutz said. "The size of the beans probably got cut in half and the corn got stripped up by the hail, so we had a lot less."
Deutz said he was thankful for the volunteers who helped with the massive cleanup project.
"It made for a lot of work for the summer, cleaning up," he said. "But our family helped at a couple of big gatherings and we had a youth group from Holy Redeemer come out and help pick trash out of a bean field."
Fortunately, the family never had to stop milking productions.
"We rebuilt the stuff we needed to," Deutz said. "We had the roof for the milk barn on within a couple of weeks. By harvest, we had a new grain bin and garage. But we're still missing a barn."
While a 100-gallon water tank for her horses still hasn't been located, Patti Gertner reported that most of her house repairs were pretty much done, including the replacement of two garage doors that blew out.
"We got the garage doors and the north wall fixed before winter, in October," Gertner said. "We also put in a few trees and moved a couple around to replace the missing ones."
Though it's been a year since the blast, which Gertner rode out down at the barn with her boyfriend, the experience is still fresh in her mind.
"Every time the wind blows, I'm gun-shy," she said. "I wonder if it's coming again."
Storms also terrify young Logan Deutz, who lives along Highway 59 with his parents Michelle and Craig Deutz. In addition to crop damage, a trampoline was broken a year ago.
When asked if the family got a new trampoline, Logan and his sister said no, reporting that their dad had fixed it multiple times instead.
Since last July, Ed Verly planted new evergreens where a shed was flattened, while Kevin DeBaere and his parents Wayne and Nancy DeBaere put up a new silo that replaced a 60,000-bushel one that blew down.
At Jan and Evan Peterson's home, the damage was overwhelming.
"My husband was ready to put up a 'for sale' sign," Jan Peterson said.
The cleanup seemed endless to the couple, who have lived just south of Marshall for 42 years. In addition to their son's trailer, which had been demolished in the storm, the couple lost their shop and countless trees.
"There were tree branches all over the yard and in our roadway," Jan Peterson said. "We're still cleaning that because they keep coming down."
In October, the Petersons replaced nearly 20 evergreens on the west side of their house.
"The ones we had were as tall as the ones we have on the north side," Jan Peterson said. "We planted them over 40 years ago. We'll have to keep replacing trees because some of them are split off. It's kind of a mess."
Since the area was all dug up anyway, the Petersons, who spent all fall, winter and spring watering the new evergreens, also put in a new septic system.
"It's just been ongoing," Jan Peterson said.
The battered shop was cleaned up and replaced before fall.
"We had some volunteers who came out," Jan Peterson said. "We, of course, paid them, but they took down the shop and cleaned up the yard, cleaned up the driveway and really worked hard."
All of the evergreens and branches off other trees were dragged down to the edge of the field for disposal.
"We had a huge, huge pile (of trees)," Peterson said. "We called the fire department and told them when we were starting the fire. I left. I couldn't stand it. It was really hard."
Once the new, spacious shed was built, Peterson said she considered it a blessing in disguise.
"I love it," she said. "It's great."
Peterson is also thankful that the house, for some reason, did not sustain any damage.
"That was amazing," she said.
Sharon Maxwell was in Michigan last year when the blast peppered her rural farm place, dismantling multiple trees and buildings. When she returned home, two friends met her there.
"My friends met me here the day I arrived back home so I didn't have to come in and have it hit me all at once," Maxwell said.
The sight, Maxwell said, was one she'll never forget.
"I was absolutely amazed," she said. "As we drove around to different places, I realized that it was so scattered. It was very strange."
The second-story roof on a remodeled barn was completely torn off, leaving debris scattered all around.
"We had it ready to pour a new floor," Maxwell said. "My husband Mike and I had always dreamed of building a house in there. But we kept putting it off and putting it off."
When their granddaughter Leah began attending classes at Southwest Minnesota State University, the Maxwells converted a three-car garage into an apartment, which also sustained storm damage.
"Insurance is taking care of some of it, but it won't take care of all of it," Maxwell said. "We'll probably have to tear the barn down. I don't want to rebuild that now."
Maxwell currently resides with her daughter in Illinois, having bypassed living on the property over the winter months. While a neighbor looks after her home, Maxwell continues to debate the future.
"I really don't know what I'm going to do yet," she said. "I haven't made up my mind."
On a recent visit back to her farm, Maxwell was flooded with memories. In addition to suffering structural damage, recalling the tree damage nearly crushed her.
"I hate losing trees," she said. "I love trees and the storm really took down some beautiful ones back there. And, we had three big pine trees wiped out in front of the house."
But stepping foot back on her property also reminded Maxwell about common heroes, those who were quick to help out in times of need. Friends and fellow churchgoers from Lake Sarah Baptist Church assembled to help Maxwell with the cleanup a year ago. A neighbor had allowed the collected trees to be burned on his place.
"We had a whole crew out here one morning," Maxwell said. "They were such a blessing to help me like that. People have been so gracious. I think that is wonderful."