Weather Forecast


It's third time turkey farm has been hit by tornado

Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Turkey barns at the Janet and Terry Carlson farm were flattened in the storm. About half of the turkeys survived but more are dying each day of shock or other injuries.

The third time was definitely not the charm for Terry and Janet Carlson of Parkers Prairie.

The tornado that ripped through parts of Douglas and Otter Tail counties last Thursday, leaving behind a massive path of destruction, wasn't the couple's first tornado.

It was their third.

The turkey farmers, who both graduated from Parkers Prairie High School in the 1970s, have lived through three tornados - one in the late 1980s, one on June 13, 2001 and one this year, on June 17.

Janet Carlson can distinctively remember all three, although the one in the late 1980s is starting to fade from her memory.

Carlson recalled Thursday's devastating tornado during a phone interview Monday evening.

She was in her house, located along Otter Tail County Road 6 just on the outskirts of Parkers Prairie, keeping an ear tuned to the television. She was listening to the weather warnings and heard that a tornado had been spotted near Leaf Valley, which is about 13 miles northwest of Parkers Prairie.

She called her husband, Terry, who was working in the turkey barns with one of their employees, Laura Wensauer. She told them they better get to the house.

As the tornado sirens sounded in Parkers Prairie, all three headed down to the basement. Within seconds, Janet said they heard noises outside.

"It sounded like clanging, chiming, tin and metal, very loud," she recalled. "I asked my husband what the noise was."

He wasn't sure.

When the three of them headed to the basement, Janet brought her weather scanner with her, and within seconds of hearing the noises outside their home, they heard a voice on the scanner say what they feared.

"The turkey barns on County Road 6 are gone," said the voice on the scanner.

"We ran as fast as we could up the stairs and out the door," Janet remembered. "We looked to the east and nothing was there."

Nothing, but three 500-foot barns crumpled to the ground in a heap of metal, wood, dust, electrical lines - and turkeys. Lots of turkeys; 25,000 to be exact.

Janet said there were fire and rescue crews on the scene within seconds. There was a strong smell of propane in the air that was coming from a 10,000-pound tank on the farm. The valve was quickly located and shut off, which helped to avoid another potential disaster.

Soon after they arrived on scene and surveyed the damage and made sure everyone was accounted for and no one was injured, Janet said the rescue personnel were called to Almora, a small town about seven miles north of Parkers. A tornado not only wiped the town out, it took the life of a 78-year-old woman.

And before she knew it, friends, neighbors and people she didn't even really know were at their family's farm, whether it was bringing food or lending a helping hand.

Although not much could be done until the next day as far as the turkeys and the barns were concerned, the roof on a shed was replaced just about as quickly as it was taken down. The computer systems for the three barns and the family's business were located in the shed and they didn't want it to get rained on.

In all, the tornado wiped out the three 500-foot barns, killing at least one-third to half of the 25,000 turkeys inside, along with damaging a couple of other buildings on the property and flipping over eight of 21 irrigators. Besides turkey farming, the Carlsons have 3,000 acres of crops - corn, kidney beans and soybeans. The crops are OK, said Janet, but they did receive some hail damage.

Despite the severity of the storm and the resulting tornado, the couple's house is still standing, but it did receive some damage - there are many dents in the steel siding, a broken window, damaged shingles and most of the seals on the windows will need to be replaced. There are damaged soffits and fascias, and Janet said her back steps, along with a wooden picnic table and other lawn furniture, are still missing.

Since Thursday, the Carlson farm has been bustling with activity - not only have friends and family and insurance adjustors been there, but the Department of Health was on scene to make sure the thousands of dead turkeys were disposed of properly.

Janet said the live turkeys were transported to another farm located a couple of miles away. Lyle and Amy Oeltjenbruns, Terry's sister and brother-in-law, live on that farm and are the Carlsons' business partners.

Although the turkeys were alive when they were brought to the farm the day after the tornado, Janet explained that more and more die every day.

"We just keep losing them," she said, explaining that they have died from being in shock, being without water too long, are too bruised and battered or they may have had internal bleeding.

"They were so banged around and many of them were pinned," she said.

As the clean-up efforts continue and the paperwork is completed, the Carlsons will keep moving forward - just like they did after the other two tornadoes.

"It's really just kind of bizarre," Janet said.