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Remembering the St. Anthony Village tornado, 40 years later

Remembering the St. Anthony Village tornado 40 years later
Remembering the St. Anthony Village tornado 40 years later 02:44

ST. ANTHONY VILLAGE, Minn. — In light of Severe Weather Awareness Week, a group of people are remembering the devastating St. Anthony Village tornado. 

It happened 40 years ago this month. 

One person was killed and homes, business, churches and schools were badly damaged or destroyed.  

"It was oppressive for the end of April," said Melba Hansel.

They are a group of people talking about the weather. But instead of the forecast, they're going back 40 years.

"All of the windows on my south-facing side were blown right into the house," said Bob Manske.

READ MORE: Red Cross offers tornado, thunderstorm safety tips during Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota

April 26, 1984 was a hot and dry day. But by 8:30 that night the winds had picked up and an F3 tornado rolled through St. Anthony Village.

"The no warning of this thing was — it still amazes me to this day," said Tim Mezzenga, who was also a first responder.

"All of the sudden I realized that there's a strange noise. What is it?" said Hansel. 


Hansel and other members of the group still live in the same houses they did in 1984. They don't remember a tornado siren going off and there were no cellphones. Bonnie Brever was at an event and couldn't reach her sons and babysitter. So she raced home through the damage and destruction. 

"Teary-eyed just thinking about it. Oh my God, that was such a relief knowing they were safe," said Brever. 

"I remember seeing my preschool and half the wall had been stripped off and seeing the bathroom right out there, open to the elements," said Eric Brever, Bonnie's son. 

Eric Brever was 5 years old that day. He recalls how dark things got when the storm knocked out power. 

"The babysitter was telling us, I think, there's a tornado out and I think I said, 'Well, we better just hit the deck and pray,'" said Eric Brever.

READ MORE: First-ever February tornadoes in Wisconsin caused $2.4M in damages

That line became the title for Gail Olson's book about the St. Anthony tornado. Some of the people she interviewed were left with nothing. 

"This was such a profound event that it stayed with people. Today, it's still in your mind," said Olson. 

There were a lot of other oddities that came from this tornado. One homeowner found 200 dead birds on the side of his garage. Another found dozens of shoes in his yard. Those came from Apache Mall.

It was one of the oldest malls in the United States, but it was thrashed by the storm. To add insult to injury, it snowed in St. Anthony during the clean-up. Still, that's what Mary Pucel remembers most. How people put their neighbors before themselves.

"It's all about the community coming together. That's the most important thing you remember, after all this time," said Pucel. 

Fifty-three people were injured, and three of the town's four churches were damaged by the tornado. 

To this day, some people still find debris in their gardens or on their property as a result of that tornado. 

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