Weather Forecast


Shelter from the storm

This is a story about being in the right place at a wrong time.

Dr. Debra Hagel, a home care physical therapist, was driving back to her home near Miltona at about 4 p.m. on June 17, the day a series of tornadoes swept through the state.

She was about five miles west of Parkers Prairie when she received an urgent cell phone call from her husband.

He told her that she was in the path of a tornado and that she had two options - seek shelter in a ditch or get inside someone's house.

No matter what course of action she decided to take, she had to do it immediately.

As the weather worsened, Hagel quickly drove from house to house but was unable to find anyone at home.

Finally, after a few more frantic minutes, she found a home with the lights on and a car in the driveway.

She knocked on the door, waited, knocked again and finally, an elderly man appeared. He'd been taking a nap with his hearing aid turned off, and wasn't aware of the trouble brewing outside.

When she explained the situation, the man welcomed her inside and she helped him get into the basement. The steps didn't have any railings and the man needed assistance.

At about that same time, the man's son called and was relieved to discover that Hagel was there to help.

Then, the power went out.

Hagel and the man - complete strangers just a few moments ago - spent the next half hour in darkness, waiting for the storm to pass.

After it did, Hagel and the man returned upstairs and said their goodbyes, Hagel thanking him for his kindness in the storm.

A couple of miles down the road, Hagel saw just how close she came to the danger: A tornado had demolished three turkey barns owned by Janet and Terry Carlson.

"If I'd kept going, I don't know what would have happened," Hagel said. "I feel very blessed that I had a safe place to go and that I was able to help someone too."

A couple of days later, Hagel was talking with someone at the Parkers Prairie community pool. The person told her she'd just heard a wonderful, feel-good story about the tornado.

It seems that a woman, who happened to be driving along when the tornado hit, stopped to find shelter and ended up helping a friend's dad...

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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