Commentary: Osakis couple survives terror in the night

The air feels heavy, an eerie silence, then BOOM — the house shakes, everything goes black. What happened? Did something explode?

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By Kathy Withers, Osakis, MN

Shortly after 7 p.m. on May 12, there are warnings of severe thunderstorms and tornadic conditions in Douglas County. My husband, Harold, is resting in our bedroom upstairs. I look at the sky and see eerie gray and greenish clouds rolling toward us. I say, "We need to go downstairs." In seconds, we grab the flashlight and head to the family room. We watch the radar on TV. It is glowing red and rolling. I realize that I left my phone upstairs, so I dash back up to get it. As I descend the stairs once again, the air feels heavy, an eerie silence, then BOOM — the house shakes, everything goes black. What happened? Did something explode? I crawl down the remaining steps as Harold is yelling for me in the darkness. In a matter of seconds it is all over. We look out the sliding glass doors to see our giant evergreen tree lying across the front of our house. I call 911 and we are told to remain in a safe place. We see flashing lights on the highway. Power lines are down. Osakis police call to see if we are okay.

It's about 8 p.m., the power remains out and Harold needs to nebulize. We can get out of the back door, the garage and car are not damaged, so we meander across the lawn weaving through the debris scattered all over the yard. Several evergreens spread across the lawn have fallen every which way. Our large machine shed looks like it imploded, its beams lying on our camper, truck and everything else that was stored in the shed. Eight-foot sheets of steel are wrapped around trees like a ribbon. A trail of 8-foot-long 2-by-4s and steel siding are seen in the field stretching up to one half mile away. Some of the wood is standing up as if someone pounded it in the ground.

We are in shock — but also in "fight or flight" mode. As I slowly ease my way through the maze, another problem arises. The power lines are lying across our driveway but above ground just high enough to clear my way under them with the car. Where do we go for electricity?

The VFW has bingo on Thursday evenings, so we go there. Harold nebulizes and then what? Barb is playing bingo and offers for us to stay at her house for the night. Shortly after arriving at her house, the power goes out there. We anxiously wait for it to come back on to no avail. By 4 a.m. Harold needs to nebulize once again. We thank Barb and tell her we need to find power somewhere.


Where can we find help? The hospital, of course. They have power and know how to care for an asthmatic patient. So once again, we are on a "fight or flight" mission. Finally we feel a small sense of relief as our immediate needs are taken care of. So the doctor asks us, where are you going to go from here? We don't know.

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