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Riding The Storm Out

June 24, 2014, 6:00 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Riding The Storm Out
WESSINGTON SPRINGS, SD -

When there's an emergency, like a tornado, doctors and nurses need to be ready to take care of possible storm victims.

But what happens when the hospital is damaged by a tornado? That's the scenario people in Wessington Springs faced, but hospital administration is thankful the damage is not worse.

Crews are working to repair damage at the Wessington Springs hospital and nursing home after a tornado hit the small town.

"It was very scary. The hospital staff said the building actually shook. They crawled down under the desks. They said they were surprised how many people you can get in small places," Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital Administrator/CEO Gaea Blue said.

Thankfully, everyone inside was safe. Several windows at the hospital are broken out, and the building has roof damage.

"The hospital roof will need to be replaced," Blue said.

But everyone at the hospital knows it could be much worse. A block away, houses are unlivable and belongings are scattered everywhere. The tornado even tossed some things into trees.

"Just amazing that we just got missed by the direct hit," Blue said.

After the tornado hit, staff called E-emergency in Sioux Falls, which alerted doctors and nurses to report to work. Some employees came from neighboring towns; others left their own tornado-damaged homes.

"At least eight of our associates sustained personal damage. Probably half of those lost their homes, and they've continued to help out here as much as they can and deal with their own losses," Blue said.

The hospital's helped five storm victims with minor injuries, and doctors are also busy writing prescriptions for patients who lost their medications in the storm.

"If they didn't take them to their shelter with them, they didn't have them," Blue said.

While Blue says the hospital and the entire community have a long road ahead, she's proud of her employees and thankful everyone survived.

"When we practice these drills, we've often wondered in a small rural hospital like this if we would really get the staff response we needed. In the real situation we did," Blue said.

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