PROJECT TORNADO: Fire Chief tips his cap to KTTC weather team

Updated: Jun. 15, 2022 at 7:00 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Forecasting storms and alerting people when they need to head to safety is what the KTTC Weather Authority team prides itself in.

On December 15, 2021 the Rochester Fire Chief and Emergency Management Supervisor at the time credits the KTTC team for getting he and his wife to safety that night.

It wasn’t a confirmed tornado that tore through his property right off Highway 52 and I-90, but Rochester Fire Chief Eric Kerska has since tracked the path of the severe storm. It just missed his house.

“We are lucky it didn’t take out the barn. It missed the house by 100 feet,” he said.

Trees older than 100 years were toppled by the storm. Cleanup continues for the Rochester Fire Chief. He says it is going to take him a long time to clean up the debris.

“Just a lot of chainsawing and brush stacking,” he said. “That one [tree] is 150 years old.”

Severe weather hit his property at 7:47 p.m. on December 15th. Because of a KTTC alert, he says he knew it was time to hit the deck. He says Chief Meteorologist Nick Jansen is the one who alerted him first of the storm about to hit his property.

“I have a lot of respect for the weather service, but you [KTTC] were the only station that made your own call. You gave us three minutes,” he said.

When they heard Chief Meteorologist Nick Jansen’s warning, Chief Kerska and his wife went to the basement.

“When Nick said ‘radar indicated tornado I-90 and Highway 52,′ it gave me three minutes,” he said.

While they were in the basement, they didn’t know what they would find when the storm passed.

“You heard things flying, things bouncing off the railing of the house,” he said.

When he and his wife emerged from the basement, dozens of trees were toppled. Some equipment was covered with fallen trees, but ultimately no lives were lost. Buildings were still standing, and the Rochester Fire Chief tipped his cap to the KTTC weather team.

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