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Southeast, Minnesota Tornado - Hollandale, Wycoff, Starbuck and other towns

May 1953

6 Killed as Tornado Rakes Hollandale

Twister Hits Migrant Family's House Late Sunday; State Toll 8

Six migrant farm workers at Hollandale were among the 11 persons killed as tornadoes struck five Midwest states and Arkansas over the weekend.

More than 100 persons were injured and property damage was expected to total several million dollars as the swirling funnels hit Southern Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, Southeastern Nebraska, North Central Iowa, West-Central Arkansas and Southeastern Kansas.

Eight of the dead were from Minnesota.

Killed at Hollandale, when their clapboard home on the McMillan Land Company was reduced to splinters and spread over a 100-yard-square area, were:
AARISETO MARTINEZ, 29; his wife, MAGDALINE, 25; and four children, JAIME, 11; RAUL, 13 months; DOMINGA, 8; and JESSE, 5. The bodies were hurled 100 feet to a road and into an adjacent ditch when the funnel hit their flimsy home at about 5:30 p. m.

2 Children In Hospital
Two other MARTINEZ children _____, 7, and MARY LOUISE, 3, are in Na____ Hospital, Albert Lea.

MARY LOUISE, who suffered a bruise on the head and a back laceration, was in “satisfactory” condition.

Only one member of the family escaped. She is ORALIA, 11, who was visiting her aunt, MRS. JESSE FERNANDEZ, next door, when the storm hit.

The FERNANDEZ home also was destroyed by the twisting wind but no one was injured seriously.

Wykoff Farmer Killed
Other Minnesota dead were OTTO JECHE, about 60, who was crushed under a beam when the barn collapsed at his farm near Wykoff, and the 2-year-old daughter of MRS. DOROTHY MACDONALD, 29, of rural Rochester.

The youngster was killed and her mother and FRANKLIN STEELE, 26, Rochester, were hurt critically when STEELE'S car was lifted from the road and tossed into a creek.
Three persons were killed in Wisconsin. PETER NOVAK was fatally injured when a barn was blown down on his farm near Amery. MISS MARY DUNBAR, 78, Stanton, was killed when a farm house blew apart and MARIE KNIPSCHILD, 16, Cumberland, was killed when a barn collapsed 10 miles east of Frederic.

It is believed the same storm which swirled through the Wykoff area also damaged seven farms and injured several persons in the Chester, Ia., area.

At Maple Island
At Hollandale, the storm damage wasn't confined to the McMILLAN Farm. The hangar at the Maple Island airport was damage and the wind ripped open metal doors like it was a giant can opener.

Most of a machine shed at the RALPH MOORE farm was left hanging in the trees and a garage and other buildings at the VERYL REED farm were damaged.

These places like north and east of the McMILLAN Farm where the storm struck first and did the greatest amount of damage.

Three of the small individual dwellings, about 8 by 12 feet in size were destroyed and several others were damaged as the small tornado cut a narrow path through the group of 15 buildings which huddled together next to the road.

The little houses stood in two rows. Three of them were demolished – the MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ homes in the row farthest from the road, and the GILBERT LOPEZ home in the row next to the road.

The ground was clean, except for the stone and concrete footings, on the spot where the MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ homes stood. One wall and some of the furnishings of the FERNANDEZ home were strewn about a courtyard which separated the two rows of buildings.

Sucked Into Funnel
But evidently the MARTINEZ home was sucked up into the funnel and carried for about 300 yards.

When the swirling winds released their grip, the debris flew in all directions, like water from a spinning top.

Splintered boards were littered over a field for 100 yards in all directions.

Some of the debris was deposited in the road as were the bodies of MRS. MARTINEZ and two of the children. MR. MARTINEZ and two boys were found lying along the fence about 15 feet from the road.

Boy Hurled into Tree
One of the boys had been hurled head first into a tree. Another evidently had been pierced by a flying board.

Bedding, clothing and several suitcases full of clothing were twisted into a mass and deposited in the ditch.

When the storm hit, only women and children were at home as the men were still at towrk [sic].

MR. MARTINEZ was the exception. He had stayed home to take one of the youngsters, who was ill with the measles, to a doctor.

MRS. DORA S. MARTINEZ, no relation to the dead, was standing in the door when the storm hit.

“It sounded bad,” she said. “I saw the MARTINEZ house start going. I started praying. I saw boards flying but I didn't see people. It sounded bad like a train coming or something that shakes everything. I had my three babies in my arms and I wouldn't let them go. All I did was pray.”

Her home was twisted from its footings.

Others were messed up inside by the vibration and, in one, part of the wall had to be replaced after a board was driven through it by a force of the wind.

Twisted Against Car
One of the houses was twisted up against a car parked next to it. There was only slight damage to the car. In another late model auto, however, a six-inch deep dent in the steel roof and another dent in the fender testified to the corce [sic] behind the flying debris.

Workmen stated early this morning to clear up the debris and to rebuild the destroyed homes.

The village of Hollandale suffered only slight damage – mostly to television antennas and shingles. The storm evidently disintegrated northeast of Hollandale.

At Wykoff, a house owned by LESTER GATZKE was hurled 100 feet into the middle of the street and GATZKE'S mother, MRS. HARRIET DORNIK, was injured.

Another Wykoff home, that of FRED HORSTMAN, was moved 75 feet, and HORSTMAN suffered a scalp wound. A number of other buildings in Wykoff were damaged and trees were uprooted.

The same tornado which hit Wykoff also struck St. Charles, about 20 miles northeast, causing scattered damage.

Two cars were blown from the road between Rochester and St. Charles.

8 Barns Down
At least eight barns and a number of smaller farm buildings were leveled by a tornado that struck near Starbuck in the first such storm to strike in Minnesota Sunday.

The storm devastated Whitewater State Park, near St. Charles, between Winona and Rochester.

H. O. OHLAND, superintendent of the park, said practically every tree in the park was uprooted, broken or stripped and only two of 20 buildings were left standing.
The park had camping accommodations for 300 and a picnic area large enough for 1,500 persons.

70 Girls Safe
Seventy girls from the Rochester YWCA had left the park only an hour before the storm hit and scores of others there for picnics fled before the storm.

Two carloads failed to get away in time. Their cars were badly damaged, but their occupants escaped with minor injures [sic]. Four cars were blown off the road near St. Charles, but their occupants escaped injury.

GUNDER FELLAND, 63, who farms near Hanlontown, said he herded his family into the basement when he saw the storm coming. “Then I saw the house life off the foundation about a foot,” he added, “before it settled back down, a little off center. When I went out later and looked, two big trees were piled right down on the house. Those trees must have kept the house from blowing away.”

Five farms were damaged by another tornado in Clayton County in the northeastern part of the state.

Several Small Twisters
No one was injured or killed when two tornadoes hit a residential district near the fairgrounds in the West-Central Arkansas city of Russellville. About 40 homes in the area suffered heavy roof damage.

Several small twisters hit South-eastern Kansas towns early yesterday, damaging farms and summer homes. There were no casualties.

Austin Daily Herald Minnesota 1953-05-11

Submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!


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