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Tracy, Minnesota F5 Tornado June 13, 1968

Late on that evening, the F5 tornado cut a path through the town of 2,800 people in Minnesota’s southwestern farmland. It ravaged a block-and-a-half wide path, then skirted into the countryside, destroying an occasional farm building before it dissipated five miles out of town.

There are many different recounts and stories from that evening.

The town siren wailed in the early, eerie dusk at 6:55 p.m., just a few minutes before the tornado struck. The siren was sounded thanks to a call to the authorities from Delpha Koch, who saw the tornado from her rural Garvin, Minnesota home. She telephoned the volunteer fire department as the tornado approached eight miles to the southwest. The death toll would probably have gone much higher if the town hadn’t been warned by her. Fire Chief Bernard Holm said, “This saved many, many lives.” Holm saw his greenhouse across the street collapse at the tornado’s edge, then he took shelter in his basement. His house had very little damage, but that was not the case for many other parts of the town.

Some of the demolished homes, nearly half the dwellings in the community, had vanished except for their concrete front steps and foundations. Some homes had plumbing intact, but little else. In all the tornado destroyed 111 homes, caused major damage to 76, and minor damage to 114. Five businesses were destroyed and 15 damaged. The elementary school and 106 automobiles were also destroyed. Two boxcars were lifted from railroad tracks and blown over the rooftops and smashed down three blocks away in the area of destruction, so cluttered it resembled a large junkyard. Winds were estimated at 261 to 318 mph.

Streets were bulldozed of debris, to allow rescue workers to get through. Tracy’s mayor ordered the town sealed off from sightseers, with entry permits granted to persons with valid reasons to be in Tracy. Governor Harold LeVander ordered 150 National Guard troops from Tracy and Marshall to assist and secure the area. He also directed the state Highway Department to bring in portable electric generators.Tracy was without electric power, water and phone service for several hours. The hospital was operating on emergency generators. Water was brought by tank trucks from nearby Marshall and Slayton.

Seven bodies were recovered in the dark hours following the powerful twister, and another two were discovered the next morning by National Guardsmen and Civil Defense workers searching and assisting in the cleanup operations. The bodies found after daybreak included that of a man found near town in an open field, near his car. Nearby, another car was found to have body in it. In total, nine people lost their lives that evening and over 150 people were injured. Luckily there was a warning and people were able to get to shelter. Make sure you always get a warning too, add MyWARN to you severe weather safety plan.

Photo c/o wikipedia

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