Loretta Wulf will never forget the sound of the tornado as it tore apart her home.
A year ago today she was huddled in her basement with her family, waiting out the violent storm, from which sounds were being made that she can only describe as sickening.
"It was just a horrible, ripping, wrenching, tearing sound," said Wulf of the F-2 tornado that destroyed her home and the homes of 19 of her neighbors. "It had to be the trees, the roof, the garage going. It was awful. I knew there was no way it was going to be OK when we came out of there."
Wulf and her husband, Henry, are both retired and operate an Arabian horse farm. They've been on 40 acres along Crow Wing County Road 45 since 1971. They have about 15 horses, including some boarded horses.
Just before 8:30 p.m. June 13, 2001, the tornado, with speeds of more than 100 mph, touched down on St. Mathias Road near Highway 371 and drove in a northeast path to Highway 18 east of Brainerd. Along the way, more than 70 houses and other buildings were damaged, entire groves of trees were lost and livestock were killed by the storm's raging winds.
Wulf was at her barn to close a large door when the tornado hit County Road 45. She was taking in a videocamera set up in the barn to monitor the foaling stall from inside the home. Then she heard the tornado. The sky turned blackish green. The wind howled like a jet engine.
"Nobody has to tell you that's it, you knew immediately that was it," Wulf said. "And I was able to run for the house. It was really an odd feeling once you realize what's coming."
By the time Wulf reached the nearby home's patio door, she said her legs were getting shaky. She had been home with her family, her two daughters and their husbands, for a family dinner. They all made it to the basement in time. None of her horses died.
The tornado left a damage path about a half-mile to three-quarter-mile wide and seven miles long. The storm dropped about 5 inches of rain, pushing streams and rivers up their banks.
An F-2 rating on the Fujita scale is considered a strong tornado, the National Weather Service in Duluth reported, with wind speeds between 113-157 mph and considerable damage.
The tornado knocked power out to all of Brainerd for 25 hours. The winds knocked down 25 power poles and the two main electricity feeder lines that power Brainerd. Helping Brainerd Public Utility crews were crews from Minnesota Power, Crow Wing Power, Ramsey and Wadena public utilities.
The morning of June 14, 2001, residents along County Road 45, Red Pine Road, Greenwood Street, Highway 18, Oak Ridge Road and St. Mathias Road surveyed their damaged homes, barns, vehicles and trees. Damage was estimated to be in the millions.
President Bush declared Crow Wing County a federal disaster area, making county residents eligible for federal funds.
The Minnesota Army National Guard, activated by Gov. Jesse Ventura, posted all entrances into the damage area until power was restored. National Guard personnel and 22 sentence-to-serve inmates from the Crow Wing County Jail, as well as some Morrison County inmates, helped residents move debris from their yards. Insurance adjusters began to visit damaged homes.
The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Service, Crow Wing Power and other service organizations and churches provided material and financial assistance.
Like many of the people whose homes were damaged or destroyed, Wulf moved into a hotel for a time while her new home was being built. She was pleased with how honest and fast her insurance company worked. She was covered for all her losses except a fence and some landscaping.
Still, dealing with officials and paperwork from all sorts of offices, including her insurance company and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was tiring.
"It was a very fast year," Wulf said of 2001. "There were days when I guess I thought, 'This is never going to end.' It was very draining."
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