NEWS ARCHIVES: 19th Anniversary Of The Tornado at Gustavus
EDITORS NOTE: This story first aired on KEYC News 12 on March 29, 2017 on the 19th anniversary of the tornadoes. In this story from the archives, Meteorologist Tom Clements takes a look at how the tornado impacted the Gustavus Adolphus College campus.
It was the single largest outbreak of tornadoes in Minnesota history for the month of March.
It's a sound that won't be soon forgotten in the town of St. Peter. As the tornado sirens blared that fateful day 19 years ago, then a student, now professor Glenn Kranking was residing in the old Swedish House on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus.
"When the storm hit, the windows blew out right away and just all the dust went up into the air. It became very difficult to breathe. I didn't hear the typical train sound from that tornado. In large part because there was a fire alarm in the building that got set off with the dust, and so I couldn't really hear anything over the fire alarm," said professor Glenn Kranking.
Because of the fire alarm, cranking couldn't hear the roof torn off of the old house.
"Looking back, I think I was in shock for quite a while, and just kind of going off of adrenaline, and seeing the extent of the devastation and realizing just how lucky we were, how lucky the community was as well, once I found out... It's amazing that there was only one person in town that died," said Kranking.
The tornado produced 150 to 200 mph winds that damaged 59 buildings on the campus.It also shattered 80% of the windows and destroyed or uprooted 2000 trees.
"And it was every tree that was pretty much uprooted. The Library windows, on the third floor especially were blown out from one side," said custodian David Passon.
The damage to the college was estimated to be around $50 million at the time. The good news is that there were not a lot of students on campus because the college was on spring break.
The Swedish house is now gone, but the memories live on, as do the memories of the day when the tornado hit.
"Whenever I hear those sirens now, I'm always taking them seriously and heading straight to the basement," said Kranking.