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Woman Remembers Being Swept Away By F4 Tornado That Killed 12 In 1969

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A deadly tornado 50 years ago in the northern Minnesota town of Outing has haunted a Twin Cities woman. As the August anniversary of the F4 approaches, Sue Moline set out to document what survivors and first responders remember.

Moline was 17 at the time, staying in a cabin with family on Roosevelt Lake. A group of 28 from church filled four cabins.

"We heard the word tornado on the radio," Moline said, looking at pictures from her home in Bloomington.

Decades later, she recalls the next terrifying moments. The trees bending in half, and then, "like a rug got pulled out from under us. You're jerked and you're moving at a high speed and you know you've been picked up by a tornado. And then I felt water and, in my mind, I said, 'Now I know which way we went, toward the lake.' And then I'm underwater. You know you're going to die."

The tornado moved the cabin off land and into the lake. Five people who were inside died, including Moline's older sister Becky.

"She didn't know how to swim, and my mom watched her drown. And that stayed with my mom the rest of her life," Moline said.

Outing Tornado
(credit: Brainerd Daily Dispatch)

The storm killed two others on the ground outside. According to the National Weather Service, the August 6, 1969 tornado was nearly a mile and a half wide with sustaining winds of 207 to 260 miles per hour. In all, 12 people lost their lives; another 70 were injured.

"I think it's the grace of God that anyone lived. I think we all should've been probably been killed. That's what's come to me more recently. How did we live? Why did we live?" Moline said.

Her slice of the storm lives vividly in her mind, but so many more survived it. She wanted to gather stories from family members and others in the community so she put an ad in a few small town newspapers, hoping it will lead her to see the big picture.

"I think it's a fascinating story actually, and if we don't tell it who's ever going to tell it," Moline said.

Moline has done dozens of interviews. She doesn't know where this will go, but is considering writing a book.

And she's still looking for more stories; you can email her here.

A memorial service is planned for the Aug. 6 anniversary in Outing.

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