Tornado surprises South Mpls


Although officials called it “a minor tornado,” to residents who found themselves smack in the path of the storm that hit South Minneapolis mid-afternoon on Wednesday, August 19, it was anything but that.

“They saw [the tornado] going down Portland,” said Acting Minneapolis Fire Chief Anthony Kuczek minutes after he arrived at the scene. Police and fire personnel afterwards roped off 38th Street and directed traffic away from the area where several trees fell and knocked down power lines.

The MSR offices at 3744 4th Avenue South did not sustain any damage as a result, but Reginald Hunter’s All In One communications store across the street at 38th and Fourth Avenue South suffered door and window damage.

He and Donnell Larkins, a St. Paul College student, both “were on the computer” when the tornado struck, said Hunter. Larkins, who had gone outside, came back in and told Hunter that the rain was coming down harder.

“It was raining leaves,” observed Larkins, whose truck, parked across the street, also was damaged. “The back part just flew off,” he said. “Man, that must be a tornado! I’d seen the big swirl, and it was black.”

The two men tried vainly to lock the front door, “and it just ripped everything open.

The door and the window shattered… We just dived to the floor,” continued Larkins.

“The wind was so strong that the whole handle popped off the door,” Hunter added.

Other residents concurred that the storm, which lasted only a few seconds, came without any warning. It left them shaken but unharmed.

Alaric Parker, who lives upstairs over Hunter’s store, said, “My computer went out. I looked out the window, and I saw the trees blowing sideways.”

For several Southside blocks, blown down trees created an impromptu obstacle course for people and cars to maneuver around. Broken branches and leaves caused by the storm transformed the black-tarred streets into paths of brown and green.

One block of Columbus Avenue essentially was divided into thirds because of fallen trees. Two trees missed the front of one house as it came down near its porch. The family inside told the MSR that a tree in their backyard also came down but missed the house. They expressed their gratitude that no one got hurt.

“I looked out the window, and it looked like one big cloud,” said Stan Rogers, who lives down the street. “The wind was just roaring… The next thing I heard, everything was hitting the house. Then I heard a lot of snaps.”

After he emerged from his basement, where he went for safety, Rogers discovered a tree was no longer standing in his back yard. “It was an old tree. It fell all the way [to the ground].”

Rogers, who said that years ago he survived a hurricane while living in the South, simply concluded that last week’s midday storm was “a surprise.”

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