The date was June 13, 1968. It was a very humid day – the kind of day when kids playing baseball just couldn’t get into their game.
“People just weren’t doing anything,” said Scott Thoma, who was nine years old that day.
It is a day he is never going to forget, be-cause it is the day the first official F-5 tornado was recorded in Minne-sota. Winds of an F5 tornado range from 261 to 318 miles an hour, but some surmised the winds of the tornado that hit Tracy that day were even higher.
To put it in perspective, the recent hurricane that hit the east coast had winds in the 180 mile an hour range, said Thoma.
Stories have been told over the years about the storm, and Thoma wrote a piece on the tornado on the 30th anniversary.
Knowing there were so many stories, some of them which had never fully been told, Thoma decided to write a book about the event.
That book, which is entitled “Out of the Blue,” tells the tale specifically of two young girls and their tornado experience.
Thoma was in Red-wood Falls recently talking about his book at a presentation at the Redwood Falls Public library. Where he talked about what he remembered, as well as the stories he heard and recounted in his book.
Weather reports in 1968 were not like they are today, said Thoma, who said there was not much warning before the tornado hit.
The storm was preceded by some rain which Thoma said people were happy to see.
“We needed the rain,” he said.
The storm hit about 7 p.m., said Thoma, and he said it happened two weeks after school had let out for the summer. That is an important fact, added Thoma because of the significant damage done to the elementary school in town. The school was destroyed.
Thoma said the school had a safe room, and if the tornado had hit two weeks earlier many of the children hiding in that room would have been killed, as it was filled with rubble.
There were nine people killed in the tornado, and 125 injured, and Thoma said he heard stories of how the hospital was so overwhelmed by the injured there were people on beds in the halls waiting to be treated, and those who had died were placed in a laundry room as there was no other place to put them.
The book Thoma wrote focuses on the tale of two sisters, Pam and Linda, and what happened to them during the tornado.
One of them was blown away from the home where they lived but was left with very little injury, while another was described has having an ankle that “exploded.”
Page 2 of 2 - Thoma said at first one of the sisters did not want to talk with him, because she had for so long tried to forget that event.
The reason was a child she was caring for and was in the process of adopting had been killed in the storm.
Ultimately, Thoma, through more than 70 phone calls and creating connections, was able to get her to open up, and he said he thinks the whole process helped her heal the wound that had existed for all of these years. Thoma said he is proud he was able to help her experience that healing.
Thoma said over the years there have been a lot of stories about what happened during the tornado – some of them true and others embellished as is often the case when a tragedy like this takes place.
Thoma said he has enjoyed traveling throughout the region talking about his book and hearing the stories of people who remember the tornado.
To find out more about what happened to Pam and Linda and to read more of the stories that unfolded during and after the tornado, one is going to have to get a copy of Thoma’s book. A portion of the proceeds from the book are being used to create a permanent memorial in Tracy. To find out more about the book or to get a copy visit thomabooks.com.