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Swift County tornado hits family twice at two homes

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SWIFT FALLS -- Carol Skarsten said she was "oblivious" to pending danger Tuesday afternoon while watching TV news about a storm warning for Swift County.

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But then her husband, Sanford, came tearing in the house and told her to run to the basement.

A screaming tornado appeared to be just a couple hundred yards behind the barn, said Sanford Skarsten on Wednesday morning while standing in the debris that was strewn through the family's rural Swift Falls yard.

The couple barely made it to the cellar of their 100-year-old house before the swirling winds hit.

"The intensity of that thing," said Sanford Skarsten, with a bit of awe in his voice.

When they emerged two minutes later, the devastation they saw took their breath away. The walls of a large machine shed were blown out, their garage lay in a heap and a recently refurbished barn was demolished.

"I was so proud of that barn and now it's all gone," said Sanford Skarsten.

Losing a yard full of trees was also painful.

"Forty years of trying to get trees growing in our yard and it's gone in 45 seconds," said Carol Skarsten. She was also lamenting that the best vegetable garden she'd ever raised had been shredded.

Standing, mostly untouched, in the middle of wreckage was their home.

"We have to pick up the pieces and go on," said Carol Skarsten.

Their great-nephew, Bryant Skarsten, was also picking up the pieces from the devastation left by Tuesday's tornado at his home just a short distance from where Sanford and Carol Skarsten live. The elder Skarstens had sold the property to their young relative, who had finished building a new house on the farm site last year.

The attached garage on the new house is gone, and there was some roof damage to the house. A nearby barn was obliterated.

Three dogs that had been in the barn at the time were unharmed and the last of three kittens crawled out of the rubble Wednesday morning.

About 40 volunteers showed up shortly after the tornado hit and helped clean up the site, said Ashley Solum, who shares the home with Bryant Skarsten.

Amazingly, the only damage to the interior of the home was that two picture frames had fallen off the wall. "We were very, very lucky," she said.

Most of the debris was cleared up by Wednesday morning. Crews using large equipment were pushing the remains of the barn away.

They are so thankful no one was hurt and thankful for the help of friends, family and neighbors, said Solum. "It's a great community."

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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