Growing up on the Canadian Prairies, we had our share of wild weather. Nothing, however, would compare to what I was to face when I moved into Tornado Alley.
Exactly one year ago today, the skies grew dark, the rain came down, and all went still. That is when an F4 tornado struck our area turning this manufacturing plant into nothing more than a field of debris and mangled vehicles.
The violent tornado was tracked for 9.6 miles, reaching F4 intensity along a one mile stretch that included the above pictured plant. Approximately 140 people were working in the plant at the time, but all made it safely into the concrete encased bathrooms which also served as storm shelters.
By the time the tornado moved on, the plant was completely demolished. Steel beams and metal siding were strewn everywhere. The earth lay scarred by the flying debris and the five foot tall cornstalks in the surrounding fields were now broken, bearing witness to the quarter mile wide path of the tornado. Insulation from the plant was wrapped around the broken stumps of once tall trees. During the tornado, a powerline snapped and scored the earth with a foot deep crevasse. The magnitude of the destruction was difficult to fathom.
The employees' cars were a mangled wreck. Many of the vehicles had been thrown into the building. Those cars that remained in the parking lot, were now little more than scrap metal. All of the cars' windows were gone, either having been broken by the pressure of the tornado or by the flying debris. Seeing the baby seats still safely strapped into the back of the wrecked cars was beyond surreal.
From the plant, the tornado moved on to completely demolish four farm houses over a mile away. It also demolished the exterior walls of two brick houses. Later the residents of one of the homes would return to spray paint "Jesus has once again saved us from the storm" in red across what used to be the interior wall of their bedroom, a testament to their faith and survival.
Remarkably, not a single person lost their life to the tornado, which was on the ground for an incredible 23 minutes.More on Tornadoes:Deadly Skies: Canada's Most Destructive TornadoesGame: Tornado Tear UpTornado SafetyTornado Myths