PROJECT TORNADO: Looking back at survivor stories

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 1:43 PM CDT
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MINNESOTA (KTTC) -- While you can be prepared on what to do when severe weather hits, you can’t control it. Weather has a mind of its own and it can cause monumental damage in a matter of seconds.

Over the years, south east Minnesota and northern Iowa have seen the worst side of mother nature: high winds plummeting full grown trees, tornados thrashing buildings, and wrecking homes.

Take Floyd County, Iowa in May of 2019 for example. At least ten buildings at the Floyd County Fairgrounds sustained some damage from a tornado on May 27, 2019. At least two homes were also damaged.

The National Weather Service is confirmed the tornado at EF-1 strength with peak winds estimated at 110 mph. It was on the ground for approximately 15 minutes and cut a path nine miles long. It was one of at least three confirmed tornadoes in the area that day.


Nobody was injured or killed, but the damage to some of the fairground buildings is extensive.

Floyd County Fair Board President Amy Staudt was the only person on the property when the storm hit. She says it was all over in about ten minutes.

“Couldn’t even believe it,” said Staudt. “First of all you think I’m blessed, because I’m sitting right next to it and the building I was in made it through and I’m fine, and then we look around and now you’re focus becomes clean up and second thing that comes to your head is our Floyd County Fair is starting on July 7th.”

Lucky for Staudt, and other able to escape the wrath weather can bring -- but that’s not always the case. For instance, the flood of a century in Rochester, Minn.

“It was very dramatic,” a man told KTTC in 1978. “It’s the worst flood we’ve ever had in the city of Rochester.”

In 1978, flooding water swallowed the city of Rochester. Then 25 year old Police Reserve Jim Prechel remembers his rescue mission--and the lives he couldn’t save that July night.

“And that’s when I heard the screaming and that’s when I went to go down the steps and the water was just coming up,” Prechel said. “I couldn’t believe how fast it was coming up. I talked to the people one last time, you know, help is on the way and the screaming stopped.”

Trapped in an elevator, four lives were lost in less than a minute. Leaving survivors, like Prechel, to pick up the pieces.

“I just like to think in my mind, for my own sanity, that I would have gotten out,” Prechel said. “It just helps me cope with that night.”

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