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Tornado Touches Down On Big Stone Lake

June 18, 2012, 6:01 PM by Peggy Moyer

Tornado Touches Down On Big Stone Lake

Straight-line winds and even a tornado blew through several northeastern South Dakota communities Sunday evening.

The storm was moving west to east through Roberts County. Straight-line winds damaged properties in Peever causing a propane leak and the evacuation of homes on the north side of town. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

The storm then proceeded south and east along Big Stone Lake picking up enough energy to spawn a tornado near Cramer's Resort and winds up to 110 miles per hour.

Cabin and homeowners along the south side of Big Stone Lake work to the hum of chain saws as they clean up after Sunday night's tornado touch-down. While the National Weather Service confirmed it was an actual tornado, residents in the area at the time didn't have any doubts about it.

"We saw like a white sheet coming and thought it was hail and then saw another white sheeting coming the opposite direction and the waves were going all different directions and we decided, yes, it was a tornado," home owner Karen Hunt said.

Sandi Sawchuk is still visibly emotional. She describes what it was like being trapped outside between flying debris and falling trees when the tornado hit.

"It was like instantaneous. Trees blew down. The fridge blew out.  We're standing right here and if it wasn't for this wall, maybe we would have been hit with an appliance and squished or been hit by the tree," Sawchuk said.

The entire north side of the cabin was crushed by falling trees. A few homes downstream, you find the lake side addition on a house destroyed.  Neighbors and friends were trying to upright pontoons and boat docks that had been flipped.

Chad Wientges was inside his cabin at the time the tornado hit. He says by the time he realized it was a tornado, the only thing they could do was ride it out.

"You could feel it lift up and just kind of slide over and back down," Wientges said.

Sawchuk describes the tornado as sounding like a freight train. After the storm blew through, she found her sail boat several properties away, in the trees. While she was a guest in her cabin Sunday night, she hopes the owners don't hold this against her.

"The owner of the cabin - we've been told - really likes to have us come here because we always clean it up and do things and leave it in better shape than when we came so I don't think we're gong to get invited back again," Sawchuk said.

The cabin owner says he's just glad nobody got hurt.

This wasn't the end of the line for the storm however. It continued south and east along the lake. A lot of tree damage is reported in Big Stone City and across the border in Ortonville, Minnesota. The National Weather Service says straight-line winds hit these communities.

But ten miles farther east of Ortonville, downed power poles have the National Weather Service questioning if a tornado might have briefly touched down there, but they are not ready to call it just yet.

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