A sad Father’s Day for northwestern Minnesota

Statistics are still being parsed, but it appears a tornado outbreak on that day was the most prolific in the history of the state. The towns of Wadena, Mentor, Algora and Kiester will never be the same. Several other towns were struck, though Wadena, a regionally important city of about 4500 was devastated, and there were deaths in Mentor, Algora and near Kiester.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune had an excellent piece on this Father’s Day about Wes Michaels, the man who lost his life in Mentor, which is in the northwestern corner of Minnesota, who died protecting his daughter at the gas station he owned.
The article is poignant and sad, however his death underscored a danger highlighted by these storms. Weather services across three states, the Dakotas and Minnesota, did an excellent job giving people proper warning. The city of Wadena, for example, had 36 minutes between the time the sirens went off and the tornado sweeping into town. Michaels was watching The Weather Channel (reportedly a favorite of his) and actually had time to drive to the gas station to ensure the safety of his daughter and customers, ushering them into the freezer.
This is the problem that was exposed by the storms. The three deaths that occurred were because of unsafe places of refuge. The other two were killed when their mobile homes were tossed. The safest place to endure such weather is always below ground. Wes Michaels couldn’t get there, but found the next safest place, and there were 4 other people in that freezer that are alive to thank him for that.
Hopefully we won’t have to hear any more tragedies like this on this Father’s Day, however there is a dangerous situation setting up again today, this time through South Dakota and Nebraska, with most of the states under the gun. Here’s hoping YOU have a happy Father’s Day, no matter what the weather may be.