The only real natural event that I have ever been in was the tornado that touched down in Beaver Dam in the year 1980. It was always felt that we would never be subject to a tornado because of the lake effect. In searching for the data on this tornado I note that this evidently is misinformation as there were others mentioned, just not memorable to me. The tornado that I witnessed firsthand happened on April 7th, 1980.
This happened in the later afternoon on a weekday. I was at work, my youngest daughter was at my mother’s house, and my oldest daughter was at home. I received a phone call from my daughter at home asking permission to go to the lake to catch crayfish or something equally strange for a class in school. I gave her permission even after I received another phone call from her saying that the tornado sirens had gone off. Well, since we never had a tornado I told her she could go to the lake, but just be careful. A few seconds later, I received another phone call from this daughter saying that the roof on a house directly across the park parallel to our house just had their roof blown off. Well, I thought it was now basement time. Another phone call was received asking if she should take all the pets, including hamsters, fish, birds, a dog, whatever, to the basement with her. I told her to take the dog and get to the basement. (Note – you will realize that since the roof was already off the house across the park from us, this whole activity was probably a moot subject.)
In the meantime, while at work, the sun was shining, but the sky towards the north end of town where our house was located, was black as night. Then the sirens went off and all hysteria seemed to take place. I tried to call my mom’s house which was also on the north end of town and received no answer. When I was done with work I went directly to my mom’s house to pick up my youngest daughter. Well, it was quite a site. As I continued to travel to the north end of town I saw the chain link fence at Washington School smothered with debris and paper to the point that you couldn’t even see through it. Then as I traveled up to my mother’s house which was just down the street from the athletic field I saw all the huge lights literally bent in half leaning over the road. Upon going up MacArthur Drive it was noted that there was no electricity, sheds were sent sailing to places unknown, and I found out that the tornado actually went through this area up past the canning factory and out of town causing a considerable amount of damage. I was told that my mom had gone out to put her car in the garage when the awning over her back door was blown into her house together with the back door. My mom was hanging on the side of the garage so as not to get blown away. My daughter who saw what was happening said it sounded like a hundred trains going overhead, and hid under (newspapers!!!!) to avoid the unknown. No one was hurt, just shaken up. The area by my mom’s house was without power and there was a gas leak. Everyone had to leave their homes for the night and some of the neighborhood men kept a vigil overnight.
I found it to be very interesting that while all this was happening on the north end of town, a picture was taken facing north from the end of Maple Avenue which is in the downtown area observing three tornados bouncing along all the while the sun was shining from where this picture was taken.
To say this was an eye-opener and a wake-up call was an understatement. No one takes tornado sirens for granted anymore as you just never know what could happen.