Child dies as storms rake northern Twin Cities suburbsby Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
Residents and city officials have been working hard to clean up parts of the northern suburb of Rogers, after tornado level winds ripped through the town Saturday night.
The National Weather Service says the storm was a level F-2 tornado, with winds gusting over 100 miles an hour.
One child, Jaymi Wendt, 10, died when a house collapsed during the storm. When the storm hit, Jaymi was with her 19-year-old brother, who was baby-sitting three other children.
Officials said the children held hands, but somehow the girl got separated from the group. The house came tumbling down, and everyone but Jaymi was able to climb out of the rubble.
Police estimate that as many as 300 homes sustained damage.
Rogers, Minn. — It was an eery scene in Rogers on Sunday. In some neighborhoods, it looked as though a giant had trudged down the streets, smashing roofs down to the ground and crumpling garages like accordions.
Rogers resident Dustin Sims surveyed his home's damage with dismay, as helicopters buzzed around overhead. Sims says winds dragged most of the contents of his house to one side of the structure. But to his wonderment, the storm didn't touch some of his more fragile possessions.
"We have a china hutch in one of these front rooms. And it completely tore the front room apart, but left the china hutch alone and it didn't even break a dish," Sims said.
It was an equally perplexing situation just across the street from Sims. Much of the furniture was still in place in a neighbor's living room; it's just that room didn't have a ceiling or walls. Instead, what were previously walls now lay in piles on the lawn.
At a press conference, Rogers Police Chief Keith Oldfather said the homes sustaining the worst devastation were mostly new -- built in the past five years. But he doesn't think faulty construction was the cause.
"I don't think I'd make an inference to that, simply because one house was in perfect shape, and the next one gone. And some of them are built by the same builders," he said.
Oldfather simply blamed the storm itself for wreaking such havoc. And he said the clean-up would be slow going. Over the weekend, there was still too much clutter for heavy machinery to get into some neighborhoods to pull out the larger pieces of debris.
The first layer of debris was removed by hand, and to help with that effort, a number of local residents stepped forward.
A team of volunteers gathered at the Rogers Elementary School gym Sunday before loading into school buses headed to storm ravaged areas.
Rogers resident Tom Daly showed up to lend a hand.
"I feel sorry for the people who it did happen to, and I know a lot of the people," he said. "So just trying to help with the community, support my neighbors and lend a helping hand."
Over at the city's fire station, the Red Cross set up a help center. The organization was conducting damage assessments in the town to identify what services were needed for storm victims and how to fund them.
Twin Cities Red Cross captain Dan Paitso says the organization has helped helped storm victims however it can, including finding shelter for some.
"We're here to fill in the gaps that insurance doesn't cover or FEMA doesn't cover, and we'll work with FEMA and that. We'll try to be that gap-filler that people can deal with," he said.
Red Cross volunteers also drove around storm devastated neighborhoods with food supplies. And Red Cross mental health workers offered counseling.
Some residents still seemed too stunned to figure out what their next steps would be. Cal Corth says he came home from a concert Saturday night to find the windows blown out in his house. He says didn't know what kind of repairs would be necessary.
"I have absolutely no idea at this point. We have water leaks, we had gas leaks we had to shut off, we have all the house except for one bedroom with wind blowing through it. I'm not even sure the house can be salvaged as it is," according to Corth.
At the time of the interview, Corth had no idea where he, his wife, and 16-year-old daughter would be sleeping that night. But he tried to be optimistic.
"It's got to get better," he figured. "It can't get worse, so it's going to get better."
Rogers residents who still need assistance are encouraged to go to the Rogers fire station and speak to Red Cross workers. Individuals who want to volunteer for additional clean-up efforts can present themselves at the Main Street Family Services in Rogers.
The boys said they did not hear storm sirens.
Tim Turnbull, director of emergency preparedness for Hennepin County, said the sirens were activated in Rogers before the storm hit, but people indoors may not have heard them.
"When the wind is real heavy, the siren sound can sometimes be altered in terms of your ability to hear it, based on how heavy the wind is from any particular direction," he said. "The false expectation that people have is that they can hear that siren go off when they're indoors. And if they've got the TV on and that sort of thing, it's very difficult."
Karen Trammell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there was no tornado warning for Rogers at the time of the storm, but a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued.
She said the storm system had developed to the west several days ago, but "as far as any kind of tornadic activity, that just unfortunately happened to develop right in the populated area when it moved in there."
At one point on Sunday, Xcel Energy reported 10,000 customers without power in Rogers. Downed power lines were strewn about in parts of the city and officials controlled who went in and out of those areas. Residents were required to show proof of residence, and wristbands were issued to those who lived in the area.
Officials opened the Hennepin County Library in Rogers, which is normally closed on Sundays, so residents without power could check their e-mail and use other resources.
Many homes in the area are valued between $300,000 and $500,000, officials said. Some had just received new rooftop or siding materials after they were damaged in a hailstorm last year.
- Morning Edition, 09/18/2006, 7:25 a.m.