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2 months after tornado, Forada leaders grateful for all the help, support

Mayor David Reller and Clerk Jo Kluver thank the people, organizations, business and more who helped their community after May 30 tornado.

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Tree debris was removed from a home along Forada Beach Road. A tornado hit the area on May 30, 2022.
Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press file photo
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FORADA — “We are just a small town, but the greater Alexandria community sure did show up for us,” said Jo Kluver, Forada city clerk, talking about the support after an EF-2 tornado hit the area May 30.

Kluver, along with Forada Mayor David Reller, couldn’t stress enough how appreciative they were for all the volunteers, businesses, organizations, churches and others, who helped out after the tornado.

“We are a grateful village of Forada,” said Reller. “If it wasn’t for everyone who showed up, I am not sure where we would be.”

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David Reller

Stories break your heart

It’s been two months since the EF-2 tornado struck the area. It touched down at around 4:30 p.m. Memorial Day Monday, May 30. It was on the ground for nearly 20 miles, with the most significant damage occurring along the northeast shoreline of Maple Lake and into the city of Forada.

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That tornado, along with another one that hit the Alexandria area on May 12, left 188 taxable parcels in Douglas County with damages totaling more than $20 million. There were about 46 homes destroyed between the two tornadoes, with many of those homes along Maple Lake.

Some Forada residents, according to Reller, are still having a difficult time dealing with their insurance companies.

“You hear their stories and it just breaks your heart,” he said. “These are times where you just can’t be ‘Minnesota nice.’ ”

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A Forada resident speaks with U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, black jacket, in what used to be his living room. A tree fell on his house after a tornado ravaged through the area May 30, 2022.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

Both Reller and Kluver, who both have stories of their own, said some residents, including themselves, have had to file complaints with their insurance companies.

“The frustrations with some of the insurance companies have had the greatest after-effect,” said Reller.

But they both said that the help and support the town and the residents have received has overshadowed what they have had to deal with when it comes to the insurance companies.

“I am happy with where we are at two months later,” said Kluver. “There has been a lot of demolition being done and clean-up. There are a couple of places that still need attention and some are still waiting for insurance, but all in all, it’s going good.”

Tornado rips through homes, buildings on Memorial Day Monday.

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Thankful for help

The list of supporters, volunteers and all the others who helped would probably be a mile long, but both Kluver and Reller were so thankful and appreciative of all the people who have helped their community.

Reller said right after the tornado, he was contacted by Mary Huntley , the mayor of Taopi, a small town near Austin, close to the Iowa border. That community, with a similar population of Forada, was hit by a tornado about two months prior. Reller said the mayor shared some helpful hints as they had just been through it.

“She ended up showing up on Wednesday, just two days after our tornado, and brought supplies like gloves and shelving and more,” said Reller. “Talk about paying it forward.”

Reller listed a few others who were instrumental right after the tornado, including Julie Anderson, Douglas County Emergency Management director; Dave Rush, Douglas County Land and Resource Management director; Douglas County commissioners; Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Posse; and Calvary Lutheran Church.

Douglas County commissioners held an emergency meeting Wednesday, June 8, which was attended by State Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Alexandria and State Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria.

Kluver added that there were many restaurants that delivered food, and other churches and organizations that helped, too. She also mentioned how grateful they were for the volunteers from the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, along with all the volunteer firefighters from eight departments around the county.

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Jo Kluver

“Everyday, it was like, ‘Who's going to show up today?’ ” she said. “People. Just lots of people coming to help, asking what we needed done. There were so many companies that came and helped out, some that gave up crews for a whole week to come and help us. People just came in when you needed them the most, like little angels.”

Reller added, “Or like big angels.”

Kluver then added, “God just brought us these little – or big – angels right when and where we needed them.”

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They both added that Alomere Health and Rainbow Rider were instrumental in the days and weeks afterward.

Roads, infrastructure a big concern

Kluver also gave a shout out to Dave Crane who delivered meals to residents around the area. She said he received tips for his efforts, which he promptly donated back to the community to the Forada Tornado Relief Fund that had been set up at the bank.

She said that the fund has raised about $25,000, with $11,500 of that coming from the Miltona Lions Club. Both Reller and Kluver said how grateful they were to the club for that donation.

People who want to donate to the fund can do so at the Hometown Community Bank in Forada.

Although it has not yet been decided on where or how that money will be spent, Reller said the residents have made “a big push for trees.” He said the community has lost an abundance of trees and that insurance companies don’t pay for lost trees. The money from the relief fund, he said, could be used for replanting of trees for the residents.

People can still donate if they wish by dropping off cash or checks to the Hometown Community Bank in Forada. Cash or checks can be dropped off or mailed to the bank, c/o Forada Tornado Relief Fund, at 10635 Toby’s Avenue SE, Alexandria MN, 56308. The bank is located at the corner of County Road 4 SE and Toby’s Avenue SE in Forada.

It's the second tornado for Douglas County, Minnesota in 18 days

Although the community has come a long way in the past two months, Kluver said there are still some yards that need cleaning up and the park in town could use some clean up, too.

Reller said something the city council will be looking into is repairing some of the roads. He said that is a great concern at this time as the roads around Forada have taken a beating and the life of the road has greatly decreased.

A complete overhaul of the roads is estimated at about $450,000, he said. Kluver added culverts also need repair as everything that happened took a toll on the area’s drainage system.

“Infrastructure is one of our biggest concerns right now,” said Reller, noting that they are hoping for some reimbursements through the state.

He also noted that there are options for loans for residents through the U.S. Small Business Administration and that the city can submit some of its losses to the state.

The declaration covers Douglas County and the adjacent counties of Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stearns, Stevens and Todd in Minnesota.

Regardless of what still needs to be done, both Reller and Kluver were so appreciative for all the support and help that has been received thus far.

“We want to thank all the businesses, organizations, churches, volunteers who assisted the city, residents and emergency responders to get us all through this catastrophe,” said Kluver. “Forada received an overwhelming amount of kindness and support and it is so deeply appreciated.”

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects lead and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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