Burnett, WI Tornado, Jun 1981


Burnett - Heather Vanderkin, 12, asked her grandmother Monday whether the saying, "Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place," also applied to tornadoes.

"Don't you believe it," Phyllis Harder, 54, replied.

Her eyes red from crying, Mrs. Harder was talking with her granddaughter about the second tornado to hit their farm in the past two months.

Five years ago, the Harders lost their home to fire.

The Harders recently repaired the roofs of their house, barn and a machine shed that were damaged by a tornado April 4.

Another twister struck their farm shortly after noon Monday.

"We're still not through paying that (the repairs) off," Mrs. Harder said.

Mrs. Harder,; her husband, Elroy; their son Pat, 15; and daughter Jane, 27, were sitting at the kitchen table when leaves and branches began flying off trees toward their house.

Pat grabbed his sister, who was sitting with her back toward the window, and pulled her toward the basement door. The family ran downstairs.

"We didn't even hear the whistle that you hear when a tornado is coming," Mrs. Harder said.

She said that when they came back upstairs they saw that one machine shed had collapsed and the roof was torn off another.

The barn was twisted off its foundation but remained upright. A calf born Saturday was killed. It apparently drowned in water that accumulated in the barn. Other cattle in the barn were uninjured.

"I had to cry for a while," Mrs. Harder said.

She said her husband was very upset, but had to leave an hour after the storm to take a load of corn to Milwaukee. He drives a truck, in addition to running the corn and dairy farm.

Inside the shed that collapsed were a baler, corn planter, tractor and tools. The Harders left the shed as it was to be inspected by an insurance adjuster. Then they will try to salvage the equipment.

Mrs. Harder said, "We just put $1,500 into the corn planter to fix it."

Neighbors and friends pulled equipment from the other shed because they heard cracking sounds coming from the walls and feared the shed would collapse.

Recalling the damage from the April tornado, Mrs. Harder said: "We lived through that, we'll live through this. At least it's not the house this time."

The Harders have lived on the farm off Highway 26 for 20 years.

Tuesday will be their 36th wedding anniversary. Mrs. Harder said she had prayed Sunday during church services that things would go well for them.

"We'll just pick up the pieces and go on, and we'll pray that things work out," she said.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 16 June, 1981