By Julie Ann Madden
“Seeing all the destruction around this house, I think an angel sat on this house, putting her wings over it,” said Trish McMullan of rural Le Mars who along with her friend, Fred Schiefen of rural Le Mars, got up Saturday morning and set out to help anybody who needed it after Friday night’s tornadoes swept through the area.
There was no damage to Sam and Jen Pratt’s home at 22887 C-38 but the beautiful windbreak/grove of trees is nearly gone on the north and east sides of the house. Plus, an open-front shed and the children’s wooden playhouse were destroyed. A utility pole was also damaged, causing loss of electricity to all the outbuildings.
“We got lucky,” said Sam Pratt. “We watched it until it was about one-half mile away.”
Pointing it was coming across the southwest field, “it was coming straight for us,” he said, explaining at that point, they took their two small children to the basement and waited out the tornado.
On Saturday morning, people began arriving with heavy equipment to remove the debris, bringing food and just stopping to help.
“There’s people here I don’t even know,” said Sam. “That’s the nice part about living in this area. People help you out.”
But at Gregory Chicoine’s place, located on the Union County, S.D., side of the Jefferson bridge, just west of the intersection of County Road K-18 South and Iowa Highway 12, it was a totally different story.
A grain bin had been thrown into the back side of Chicoine’s home and another grain bin landed in the field across the road to the north. There was also damage to other buildings.
A person providing security for Chicoine told The Akron Hometowner looters had been there bright and early Saturday morning, trying to get into the house. By 8:00 a.m., Saturday morning there was a steady stream of traffic past this tornado-ravaged property.
Tornadoes also did major damage along Fir Avenue between 240th Avenue and County Road C-43. Tornadoes, some reportedly at times more than a mile wide, had first touched down near Wayne, Neb., then came northeast up through Dakota County, Neb., and Union County, S.D., before crossing over into Plymouth County. One in the county finally disbursed near Craig.
Another tornado had done damage in Monona County and the southeastern edge of Woodbury County, striking in the Moville and Pierson areas before continuing in a northeasterly direction. Sioux City, Akron and Westfield metropolitan areas were spared but part of Wayne, Neb., was destroyed.
Most importantly, there were no fatalities reported.
Ralph and Karen Hecht’s home at 24095 Ave., rural Merrill, was one of the hardest hit farm places in the area.
“Things were shifted around,” said their son, John, explaining a brooder house was moved off its foundation, a grain wagon was moved nearly 80 feet and a 10 feet section of a large machine shed roof was ripped off and found in the cattle yard. “We lost a lot of big tree branches. We have a lot of trimming to do.”
An electric pole was sheered off in the tornadic winds, causing the loss of electricity but Karen told The Akron Hometowner they are prepared for that, living in such a rural area.
“We were very lucky,” she said, explaining Ralph had been out in the storm trying to shut machine shed doors.
Neighbors Doug and Joyce DeRocher, to the northwest, and Ann and Leo DeRocher, to the northeast both lost portions of sheds in the storm, and the Steve Kovarna family, to the southwest, lost part of a barn.
“We watched it,” said Leo DeRocher of 21857 240th St. “It was just a streak coming through. It was a mean thing.”
“We’ve never been able to see our neighbors’ place (to the east) before,” said Jen Pratt.
The Dennis DeRocher family lives across the road beneath the former cell phone tower at the corner of County Roads K-22 and C-38. This home lost just part of a roof and some windows on the northeastern corner of the home.
The main part of the house has concrete walls 1 feet thick and the tower was built to withstand 160 mph winds, said DeRocher.
“I think we were just on the edge of the tornado,” said DeRocher, explaining he could tell it was a tornado as from an upper area of the tower he could see the path it had taken.
“I’d just repaired that part of our house from a tornado three years ago,” he said. “I’ll fix it again, and see what happens in another three years.”