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Tracy Native Writes Book Recounting 1968 F5 Tornado

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MANKATO, Minn. -

Almost 45 years ago, Minnesota's first F5 tornado plowed through the southwestern Minnesota farming community of Tracy, killing nine people and leaving hundreds injured.

Now Tracy native Scott Thoma has written a book called "Out of the Blue" recounting the destructive day.

It was June 13, 1968, shortly before 7 P.M. when siren's started to sound through the streets of Tracy.

Thoma said, "We heard the siren but back then in 1968 Tracy had two sirens, one was for a fire that was a up and down tone and then the tornado siren was a strait blast."

Thoma was 9 at the time, he says the strong winds and hail made it hard to distinguish between the sirens.

Thoma said, "You don't expect your town to get hit by a tornado you are it in the prairies out there so everybody thought it was a fire with all the lightening and everything but once you went outside you could see it as far as 25 miles away."

Approaching was the first f5 tornado ever recorded in the state. The chaotic scene that followed and the deaths of those nine Tracy residents are forever seared into Thoma's memory.

Thoma said, "To come out of your house, to see all the houses leveled, see a dead body, to see the school that you went to everyday was gone."

Everyone who was in Tracy at the time has a story about where they were, how they live through it, and what they experienced. But there was one story about two sisters and their miraculous survival, after being sucked out of their home, that was largely left untold.

Thoma said, "The older sister was adopting a two year old girl at the time and that little girl got killed in the tornado and she felt very responsible it wasn't her own child yet, and she just kept it to herself, she felt guilty for many years about it."

Over 40 years later the sisters agreed to talk with Thoma, and became the focus of his book "Out of the Blue." As the story is told Linda Vaske, 20 at the time was trying to get her 8 year old sister Pam, and the 2–year–old girl she was in the process of adopting to safety.

Thoma said, "The back door blew completely off it's hinges outside and they tried to get to the basement and it just blew them right out the back door and the eight year old was carried 350 ft set down gently on her feet right in front of another house and there was a man looking out the basement window a her."

A few moments later, the twister leveled the home and picked her back up, bringing her back safely to her home, or rather the concrete steps that were all that was left.

Thoma said, "She got a concussion is all and that's because she it her head on the door frame on the way out."

The older sister was holding the little girl when she was sucked out of the house.

Thoma said, "She got stuck in a broken picket fence out in the front, on her stomach and then the wind blew her to her back and just her ankle stayed down so it just wrecked her ankle...she doesn't remember but that is when they think she let go of the little girl and they found the little girl a block away dead on the street."

The story draws not only on the destruction and heartbreak that blew into town with the tornado.

Thoma said, "I want the 9 people that were killed in the tornado to remember."

But also the resilience of the community, and the generosity of humankind.

Thoma said, "All of the people that banded together to rebuild that town...from other towns all around, you saw truck emergency vehicle, utility vehicles with names of different towns all throughout the town they came right away to help."

For those that lived through it, it's a time they will always remember, and Thoma hopes his book will help future generation not forget.

You can find more about the book, or order it at http://thomabooks.com/.