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Hoping for a Reprieve After Summer's Stormy Start

PHOTO: As Minnesotans work to clean up trees and damage from recent storms, the recovery continues in Wadena  three-plus years after the town was hit by an F-4 tornado. CREDIT: Tom Ashburn.
PHOTO: As Minnesotans work to clean up trees and damage from recent storms, the recovery continues in Wadena three-plus years after the town was hit by an F-4 tornado. CREDIT: Tom Ashburn.
June 26, 2013

WADENA, Minn. - After a rough couple of weeks, the threat of severe storms across Minnesota has diminished a bit, but history shows you should never really let your guard down.

Three years ago this month, an F-4 tornado hit the town of Wadena. Mayor Wayne Wolden said the recent severe weather across Minnesota and in other places, such as Moore, Okla., has been unsettling.

"It is storm season, and people just need to be wary and be mindful," Wolden said. "What are you going to do in an emergency? And if, heaven forbid, something does happen in your community, do everything you can to support your neighbors."

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, along with the community center and high school, when the tornado touched down in Wadena on June 17, 2010. In all, there were 48 tornadoes in the state that day, the largest outbreak in Minnesota history.

Wadena's recovery in the years since has included a focus on the future health of the community, Wolden said, such as making sure that when homes are rebuilt, they're affordable and free of environmental, health and safety concerns.

"Wadena is near the bottom in terms of healthiness of our region," he said, "so we made a real significant investment in Wadena moving forward, from a health standpoint."

Among those organizations that have helped with the healthy efforts is the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, which has awarded $85,000 in grants to Wadena County Public Health.

Wolden said Wadena also received a major grant from the state to help with construction of a new community wellness center, with groundbreaking expected later this summer.

"The new one's going to include four bodies of water: warm-water therapy pool, recreational pool, lap pool and a spa; a gymnasium, workout facilities, racquetball," he said. "Yeah - an all-inclusive, all-encompassing sort of project."

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN