A Tornado Named Har Mar

People love to talk about the weather. If you are talking to someone with which you have nothing in common, there is always the weather. People are especially fascinated by special events, such as storms.

Our Minnesota Story Book would be wanting without a storm story.The one we hear today features a tornado that was named after a mall that it almost destroyed; it was also a very up close and personal experience for me and my family.

Severe weather is often referred to as having a recipe. In order to cook up a tornado, we have to begin with the finest ingredients.
Take a warm, juicy afternoon, so sticky in made you feel as if you were wearing a sopping wet wool sweater. Mix in a mass of cool dry Canadian air along witht a hot, moist flow from the Gulf of Mexico and you have a the makings of a good storm.

We pick up the story mid afternoon, June 14, 1981.

3:00 PM, during a Sunday house cleaning event, an authoritative voice in the radio advised that conditions were ripe for an outbreak of severe weather and possibly, tornadoes. I shrugged. Nothing out of the ordinary for a hot humid June day. I continued doing the dishes which because of the party last evening overflowed the sink.

3:45 PM, sirens streaked across the sky like banshees and the radio waves blossomed into a controlled panic. A tornado was on the ground in Edina and was traversing Lake Harriet. Whoa ! Time to turn on the TV meteorologists.
¨Seek shelter immediately!” the box warned. Yes indeed a funnel was rapidly moving from the SouthWest to the NorthEast across the urban landscape. I recalled my fatherś tale that the worst tornadoes come from the southwest. Further dispatches put the beast at Bloomington and Lake St. Two miles away! It appeared to be moving in my direction so I did what anybody would do; I dashed out to the back deck of my apartment building to look for it.

My neighbors had heard the warning and joined me on the deck. “Tornadoes never strike the cities” we chuckled. The sirens continued blaring as we scanned the sky like Ahab looking for the white whale. From the top edge of my vision I detected movement. “What’s that ?” I said pointing to chunks of two by fours, sheets of plywood and roofing shingles swirling almost directly overhead. It couldn’t be a tornado, it was a clear of color, no dark ominous funnel cloud, no rumbling freight train sound.
It looked harmless, lazily spinning, I could imagine riding along inside it as it drifted off toward the Mississippi River
As it reached the banks of the river, I saw branches and leaves whipped about the treetops as the funnel dropped from the clouds again.

[ the wind began to swithc the house to pitch ]

4:00 PM I raced back to my TV to gather more details. The spinning column of air and debris, sailed over KSTP TV station, then St. Anthony Park where falling debris clobbered roof tops, then it cut a line across a dusty farm field headed for Har Mar Mall. Now uncloaked, it revealed itself as a dark funnel shaped twister.

Rising in strength as it hit the ground, the twister ripped the roof off an electronics store and the the front part of the Target on Snelling and County Road B. My grandmother, living in the Golden Age Nursing Home a short block away, had no time to take cover, but except for some trees stripped bare of their leaves her building was unscathed.

Central Park in Roseville was now the bull’s eye.
[ withc riding broom music ]

4:15 PM My mother was just pulling into her driveway on the sw corner of the park and saw the swirling dark cloud less than a block away and closing in. As she ducked into the house she saw birds being sucked into the the twister. As the door slammed shut the house shook as a large tree crashed onto the roof. Nails were sucked out of the wall or popped due to the pressure. Before she could think about what to do, the twister had moved on, leavingl 29 humongous Cottonwoods uprooted and splintered around the back yard. Now an F3 tornado, it tore through the park demolishing the bandshell. Fortunately park goers

On the tube, KSTP TV’s new doppler radar pinpointed the tornado on my mother’s block. I was stunned that this was happening in the cities. I tried to phone but the lines were already destroyed.

A couple houses on the other side of the park were sucked off their foundations and totally obliterated. My sister on Lake Owasso spotted the twister moving past her, missing by only a block. My aunt and other grandmother on the lake, claimed the twister turned away from their houses because they were burning a candles to a patron saint who provided protection from storms. It was bearing down on a trailer park just off Rice Street when it mysteriously unraveled and vanished.

4:45 PM My brother was, first on the scene and was stunned by the damage. Rummaging around the fallen trees, he found fishing lures with Target price tags strewn about the yard. Signs with Lake Harriet lettering landed among the fallen branches. Almost as soon as the storm cleared out, gawkers arrived to view the damage, clogging the roads, blocking emergency and utility vehicles. The radio and tv announcers pleaded for them to go home so the rescue squads could assist the injured, but the morbid attraction to destruction was too strong. The governor had to send in the National Guard to protect those affected and chase out the sightseers.

I was relayed information that all was well at my relatives, but several people nearby had been hit by flying objects. A man was killed by a fallen tree at Lake Harriet while fishing.

Since then, I have had several encounters with tornadoes and am always been fascinated and frightened by the mystical phenomenon. The way they are born from a cloud, rotate and dance like a snake, reeking havoc as they ramble aimlessly across the earth, then suddenly vanish into the clouds is what I would call supernatural.
And so to close on the topic of the supernatural, my mother walked on to the spirit world a few weeks ago shortly after we relived the day in June. And so Iĺl dedicate this episode to her.
Travel well mom! See you later!

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