A tornado that swooped down upon the countryside four miles south of Vesper shortly after six o’clock last Thursday evening, Aug. 7, left a trail of damage behind that was about a quarter of a mile wide and six or seven miles long. The storm was accompanied by a heavy rain estimated at about 3˝ inches.
That path marked the worst of the damage, but there were other areas affected too, but whether or not these places were damaged by the same "twister" is a matter of debate. Actually, when the storm struck, all visibility was blotted out, but several persons reported seeing three tornado funnels in the clouds shortly before the winds began their havoc.
Possibly the greatest damage done to a single building occurred at the Evangelical Reformed church four miles south of Vesper. The church, which was of native rock, literally seemd to "explode." The walls fell outward, leaving the piano, stove and pews sitting place on the floor. The roof was carried across the road and rafters and boards were scattered along the creek east of the church. The bell, which hung in the steeple, struck the ground about 30 feet east of the church, and was rolled or carried by the force of the wind to the ditch by the side of the road.
Lloyd Dresselhaus, who was working with his tractor in a field north of the church, has a kind providence to thank for his life.When he saw that the storm was about to strike, he jumped into his truck and drove to the church for protection. He found the only place where the rock did not fall far enough to reach the cab of the truck.
Driving hurriedly into the churchyard, he parked his truck at the southeast corner of the church. The wind funneled down almost at once and from then on he could not see much, but he knew that rock fell upon the hood of his truck along with a live wire from the power line. Dresslhaus was not injured, but his truck was badly damaged.
People out in that community were feeling worse Friday about the loss of the church than they were about their own personal losses. The church was constructed in 1898 and was only partially covered by insurance.
Power and telephone lines were down in the immediate vicinity of the church. Power and telephone poles had been snapped off like matches, and REA workmen were busy Friday making repairs to the power lines.
At the W.L. Reinert farm a short distance south of the church the storm demolished a barn and a steel granary. It also blew in the windows on the south, west and north sides of the house and did some damage to the windmill. Three horses were in the barn. One of them ran out during the storm, and another left shortly afterward, but the third one was caught beneath the wreckage. However, when the animal was released, she ran off to the pasture, and was apparently unhurt.
At the Theodore Kleinschmidt home, the barn was destroyed and other minor damage was done. Mr. and Mrs. Kleinschmidt, along with Mr. and Ms. Alvin Kleinschmidt and family, had left for Ohio just the day before the storm struck, and so were not at home to see the damage to their property.
Charlie Krueger lost his barn, as did Emil Hildebrandt. Lloyd Dresslehaus, Bill Serrien, W.A. Reinert and Alfred Huehl had windmills that were badly damaged, and Alfred Huehl also lost a cow shed. Frank Ahring lost a barn and a windmill.
Ernest Wacker suffered damage to his house, a shed, his truck and windmill.
As the storm continued eastward, it left more ruin in its trail. And the J.H. Rohwer farm, the siding and roof were removed from a shed and part of the shed was wholly demolished, leaving the family car exposed to the storm. It was not damaged.
Perhaps the worst of the damage was to the Rohwer house. A heavy beam from the demolished shed was blown through the west wall of the house and far into the room. Mr. Rohwer had been sitting on a chair just a minute before at the exact place where the beam entered the house. Fortunately he had just moved away from the spot.
Still farther east, the wind did more damage at the Richard Heinze home, tearing the porch from the house and upsetting the wash house.
At the Harley Bryan home the destruction was more severe. The roof was torn from the barn, and other buildings suffered considerable damage. The windmill wheel was bent double.
Undoubtedly … more damage was done, but it has been impossible to get a complete list of it all.
At Sylvan Grove and northwest of that town, the storm created more havoc. On the north edge of town the wind picked up Bill Buzick’s garage and set it down on top of the family car. A little farther away, a barn belonging to G.H. Holle was destroyed. A number of trees were blown down in Sylvan.
Northwest of Sylvan Grove damage was reported at the farms belonging to George Errebo, Hans Larsen, Thorval Damker and Tony Zachgo as well as to several that have not been identified. It was also reported that Bill Andreasen, who was driving his tractor was struck by lightning.
In Lincoln, the storm was not so severe. Some wind came but not enough to do any damage. An inch and half of rain fell.