One Tuesday night 25 years ago, right around dinner time, Clarkfield was rocked by a storm and strong winds that brought with it a raging tornado. A few hours later, around 9:30, nature unleashed a second round of whirling fury. Governor Arnie Carlson sent in the National Guard to manage the chaos. By divine grace, only one person was sent to the hospital, and even then it was reportedly a minor injury.
At the time, Clarkfield was a town of about 1400 people. The downtown streets were lined with overturned cars, and sections of buildings had fallen, creating a huge mess. The residential areas didn’t fare any better. Trees, garages, sheds, and houses were all mixed up in a natural blender and scattered in piles of debris. The Curtis Lynner farm home was caught by the tornado and flipped completely upside down, still relatively intact.
As people emerged in the early Wednesday morning, many wondered where to start. With many tools scattered to the winds, as well as useful vehicles flipped, the Clarkfield residents had quite a challenge ahead of them. Fortunately, residents and businesses in Clarkfield banded together and rolled up their sleeves to rebuild Clarkfield bigger and better.
The next days were filled with the buzzing of chain saws and trucks revving back and forth to the landfill. The Southwest Minnesota Initiative Fund offered emergency funds to help individuals affected by the storm damage. The bank made arrangements to help: pausing overdraft charges due to people unable to make deposits, extending loans, and making appointments after hours for those unable to make it in during regular hours.
The H.A. Hagg school suffered extensive damage to its roof, multiplied by water damage caused from leaking. The school still planned to open on September 8, and continue as usual. The Red Cross and Salvation Army provided meals at the GFC Junior High. The National Guard stayed until Sunday, but volunteers came from as far as Madison to help out.
Over the next weeks and months, Clarkfield came together to rebuild. Many residents reported that Clarkfield looked “simply awful...like a warzone.” Valhalla Park without trees, entire houses missing, buildings crumbled.
After any disaster, it’s common to ask “Why did this happen?” Pastor Hunter Fennell answered with “This is God’s way of reminding us we’re not in charge.” On Thursday morning, Rev. David Hurtt lead a service at Lion’s Park. Fernell reported, “People’s minds and hearts have changed. The awesome display of power may have given folks a reason to believe more strongly in a higher power.”
For the most part, Clarkfield has recovered from the storm, and is working on a new set of challenges. Just like the storm, its residents are working together to build up Clarkfield to the best version it can be.