Wadena devastated by tornado
This was supposed to be a happy day in Wadena.
With a grand parade scheduled for 7 p.m. and around 2,000 people expected to come home for an All-School Reunion, Thursday has been circled on a lot of calendars in Wadena for many months.
Now it will be remembered for a devastating tornado that ravaged the city. At 5:10 p.m., everything changed.
On Thursday night, Wadena-Deer Creek High School had extensive damage, including having a large chunk of the Wadena Community Center coming to rest on its roof. The city's pool was destroyed. The Wadena County Fairgrounds were heavily damaged. Headstones were overturned at the Wadena City Cemetery. At a press conference at 9 p.m. Thursday, Wadena County Emergency Management Director Scott McKellep said they haven't even started counting how many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
"I do have a gentleman out trying to get counts ... and I haven't gotten that report back yet," he said.
The storm caused "extreme damage" in the city, according to Mayor Wayne Wolden.
"Thank God that no one has been killed," he said.
There were 20 people treated for mostly bruises and other minor injuries, said McKellep. Of those, three were admitted to the hospital and 17 were treated and released. One person had been unable to escape their residence after the storm.
"We've had one report of someone trapped in their home, and they have been freed," Dean Uselman, Wadena fire chief, said.
Uselman said seeing the town like this is tough to take.
"It's devastating," he said. "It's just complete devastation."
The Red Cross set up at the Wadena Armory to help people displaced by the storm, which was estimated at more than 100 as of Thursday night.
Tri-County Hospital was prepared for a quick airlift of survivors with heavy injuries, but it didn't happen.
"We did have one helicopter at the hospital on standby, and we had three at the airport on standby," said TCH Director of Nursing Kathy Kleen.
Wolden said there were many gas and water main leaks that crews are trying to repair, and Verizon cell phone service was down in the city.