The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 29, 2013

St. Peter homeowner recalls restoring of historic home after tornado

ST PETER — Judy Ahlstrom recently placed on the market her Victorian-era house and she’s begun preparing to move.

For three decades, the brick Queen Anne on North Third Street has been her home. Being in the same place for a long time does not mean Ahlstrom or the house, which was built in 1887-88, have never faced the winds of change.

Together, they made it through an F3 tornado that blew through town 15 years ago today.

The intense twister was one of several spawned by a supercell thunderstorm that formed in southeastern South Dakota and rushed through several counties in Minnesota. Winds with speeds up to 200 mph struck the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College and did not break stride as they roared downhill, sweeping several houses aside before ripping off the roof of the historic structure at 202 N. Third St.

Ahlstrom recalled being in the basement March 29, 1998, with her husband, Mark, and their son, Aaron, as the storm raged above. Their daughter, Hilary, was in Mankato on that late Sunday afternoon.

When the Ahlstroms came back upstairs, they found the south-facing kitchen and adjoining dining room were intact. “It’s not so bad,” they assured each other.

Then they ventured a bit farther into the home and realized the extent of the damage. “The roof had been sucked off,” Judy Ahlstrom said.

And there was more. During the storm a car bumper had been lodged into the woodwork of a downstairs room. Windows were blown out, an antique chandelier lost its crystal sun catchers, and a favorite light fixture was perpendicular to the way it had been installed — its “Vaseline” glass lamp intact. The wood coat/hat rack — part of the home’s original furniture — was found mirror face down in the hallway, but still in one piece. Remnants of pink insulation were strewn throughout the downstairs rooms.

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