Sirens blared numerous times and Saint Peter residents took shelter on this day twenty years ago as an F3 tornado ripped through the community.
The twister took the life of a 6-year old boy and caused extensive damage, totaling more than 120-million dollars. Around 400 homes were destroyed and nearly every part of the Gustavus Adolphus College campus was damaged. The College suffered 60-million dollars in damage along but was reopened in 23 days.
Current Saint Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke was new on the job at the time and says he was in the basement of a rental-home with his wife and two children during the tornado.
“We were looking out this really small window to the neighboring house and it started raining so hard you couldn’t see the garage. The garage was maybe 15 to 20 feet away and when the rain stopped the garage was gone. It had been flipped over the street, over across the street to the next yard. So, I get verklempt when I think about the tornado. Because people went through so much and we were so blessed for the people that came to help our community.”
In the wake of the storm, 10-thousand volunteers chipped in to help in the cleanup of Saint Peter, which lost around 17-thousand trees.
Tonight, former WCCO news anchor Don Shelby will host, ‘Twist of Fate: Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Saint Peter Tornado’. Prafke says it will take a look back at the event and how far the community has come two decades later.
“So many communities came to help us at the time of the tornado. I remember seeing firefighters from Easton (MN) come to help in the emergency, from all over the place. So, if I had a list of all the people, I would send them all a thank you. But we don’t. So part of what we do is try and make sure through an event like this and other opportunities to thank people who came to help us.”
The event takes place in the Saint Peter High School Theater starting at 5:15 p.m.
“This is Minnesota. We are so lucky that when we’re down, somebody comes to help.”