One year later: Mayor reflects on Sioux Falls tornadoes

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — City leaders, first responders, and countless others jumped into action to respond to the string of tornadoes on September 10, 2019.

Before the tornadoes hit, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said he had just finished up at a city council meeting at about 10:00 and went home.

But he’d soon find out the night was far from over.

Mayor TenHaken remembers hearing howling winds that fateful night.

“It hit and it hit hard. We didn’t get downstairs fast enough, and when it passed I knew what had just happened,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

He went to Fire Station 3 right away where a temporary emergency operations center had already been set up.

“We could see the calls coming in and they were just falling in, all the 911 calls. Trees down, power out, car smashed, building gone, roof gone, and we’re hearing some of this over the airwaves too over the walkie talkies and just thinking, ‘How bad is this?'” TenHaken said.

The scope of the destruction became clearer once the sun came up.

“To not have any loss of life or any catastrophic injuries we’re very, very fortunate, but that being said, there were some parts of our city that were absolutely what I call roached. It was hard to recognize some parts, some buildings,” TenHaken said.

One year later, it’s a much different story.

“Well I would say today, if you drove around our city you’d be hard pressed to see any place where you’d say ‘Oh, a tornado must’ve came through here,’ because the rebuilding is done, obviously the debris is clear ,” TenHaken said.

But no matter how many years go by, some things about the disaster will remain unforgettable, including the community’s help.

“People were ready to put their gloves on and help, and the city just really rallied and that’s probably what I’ll always remember is the resiliency and kind of hearts of the city in the aftermath of the tornadoes,” TenHaken said.

TenHaken says one of the reasons the city called on the community to help clean up is because there weren’t enough contractors available to get the work done.

September is typically crunch time for contractors who are trying to finish up projects before cold weather sets in.

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