Memories of the Twin Cities' worst tornadoes are indelible 50 years later


For those who lived through the tornadoes that swept the Twin Cities area on May 6, 1965, the memories don't go away.

They may differ from one survivor to another, but the sights and sounds remain vivid half a century later and they're being brought out into the light of day for Wednesday's anniversary of the storms that left 13 people dead and thousands homeless.

John Holmberg, who was teaching at Fridley Middle School, tells Sun Focus newspapers of the debris that was floating in the approaching cloud and the locomotive-like sound before the storm ripped the roof off the school gymnasium.

Don Rossbach of Mounds View tells the Pioneer Press what he heard was not the proverbial train noise, but a sound like that of nails being pullled from wood.

50 years later, the 87-year-old Rossbach lives at the same address – in a home built to replace the one destroyed by the tornado, the Pioneer Press says.

The video footage below was shot by a Fridley resident on the day of the tornadoes and posted to YouTube in 2012.

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WCCO says there were at least six tornadoes that passed through the northwestern Twin Cities that Thursday evening. Scientists estimate four of them would be F4 storms on the scale meteorologists now use.

For a great many Minnesotans in 1965 severe weather meant tuning in "the Good Neighbor" and WCCO Radio has released recordings of some of the memorable moments from that night's broadcast.

Dick Chapman, who swept broadcast journalism's three most prestigious awards that year in honor of his storm coverage, later said his prized possession was a thank you note scrawled on a shredded shopping bag by nine Cub Scouts who headed to their school basement on Chapman's advice just before the building was destroyed, the station says.

What do you do if there's no basement? Head to a closet.

There may be no better way to illustrate that wisdom than the photograph (right) that Fridley tornado survivor Mia (Riese) Bremer sent to MPR News meteorologist Paul Huttner.

As Huttner notes in his Updraft blog, the 1965 tornadoes, which are considered the worst to hit the Twin Cities, marked the first time civil defense sirens were sounded in the metro area.

The Star Tribune says the storms battered the area for three hours, touching down more than 20 times.

The city of Fridley, which saw one-fourth of its homes damaged or destroyed by the tornadoes, is holding a remembrance event at the city's high school at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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