It’s hard to believe that it’s been 6 years since the tornado hit our farm on May 22nd 2011. The day started out as a nice sunny day but that all changed at 2:42 PM. The tornado formed at the beginning of a storm system that was moving through the Riceville area. It started 4 miles from the farm and was moving Northeast towards Chester Iowa. Our farm was the first hit by the tornado and my father was home at the time. He was watching TV and the blinds were down so he didn’t see it coming. The tornado warning was issued after it struck his house.
I was in Pepin Wisconsin when I received the phone call from dad. It was a perfect day and I didn’t believe him when he told me his roof was gone. He was calm so it was hard telling if he was being serious or just pulling my leg. I was hoping it was a joke and didn't want to believe that our childhood home was damaged. Our 80 acre farm was purchased from my grandfather Tom Felper in 1978 and the buildings were built shortly after. It was a perfect sunshiny day without a cloud in the sky so it took a while to convince me. It became clear that is was real once he started explaining what took place. He was upstairs at the time and said that he saw his bay window get sucked out and the roof lift from the house. The roof went over mature arborvitae's and landed on the grape trellis which was 300 feet from the house. He could hear the blinds and plastic near the roof blowing in the wind and insulation from the attic was spread all over the upstairs living space. The tornado took out the 2 stall garage door then flung a Redwing pottery jug that was on a shelf along the back wall of the garage 600 feet into the field. The jug was stuck in the dirt and was in perfect condition.
Picture from 2010
After realizing that he was serious, I headed to the farm. Everything looked fine as I was driving down his gravel road but that all changed as his property was in sight. Debris from the house, sheds, and trees was scattered in the yard and nearby fields. The roof of the house was gone, shed roof and walls gone, and the grain bin was damaged. The windbreak trees were uprooted and tipped over like dominos. All buildings on the property were damaged beyond repair. I was surprised to see that the community was already there helping with the cleanup and were putting his belongings into a semi-trailer. It was a good feeling knowing that we live in a community that dropped what they were doing to give us a hand.
This tornado was on the ground until Harmony Minnesota and damaged several farm homesteads along its 28 miles trek. One of the farms effected was the Felper farm which is owned by my cousin. This farm was passed down from our grandfather Tom Felper and was my mothers childhood home. The tornado destroyed the old farm house, barn, and corn crib which were in the family for 100 years old.
Here's YouTube footage of the tornado minutes before it struck the farm:
Website of the person who took the video.
Here's a few internet links to tornado information:
Lime Springs Herald
National Weather Service Lacrosse.
Thankfully nobody was injured during the tornado. Buildings can be replaced but lives are priceless. Losing all of the buildings was a shock at first but it forced us to re-evaluate the farms future. We decided to increase the size of the vineyard and began thinking about opening a winery. What started out as an idea is now on its way of becoming reality. Hopefully we will be licensed this year and open for business in the spring of 2018.
Thanks for visiting our families blog.
Zachary Fox, Partner
Frisky Fox Vineyard, LLP