MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A deadly tornado 50 years ago left its mark on the northern Minnesota town of Outing. Twelve people died and another 70 were injured when the F4 tornado tore through the town on August 6, 1969.
Outing is another Minnesota lake town, but with a scar that’s still visible. Old film from 1969 shows how the trees bent, wind destroyed homes and people’s lives changed.
“The big one, the F4, is the one that hit us,” survivor Sue Moline said.
Fifty years later pieces of that monster tornado litter Bob Trostele’s yard. Trostele pointed out a bow of a boat. It’s where he intends to keep it.
“This is where they ended up after the big storm. More of just sense to preserve the history of it,” Trostele said.
The tornado made history. According to the National Weather Service, it was nearly a mile and a half wide with sustained winds up to 260 miles per hour. In all, 12 people lost their lives; another 70 were injured.
Sue Moline’s older sister, grandmother and 5-year-old cousin died when the wind swept their cabin off the ground and into Lake Roosevelt. All three drowned.
“I survived and other people died. I think it kind of causes a conflicting emotional mess inside of you,” Moline said.
Acclaimed diver Bill Mathis recovered 5-year-old Sharon’s body, after others couldn’t find her.
“I was able to move the tree off the little girl, picked her up and brought her to shore,” the retired Mathis recalled.
Moline and Sharon’s mother, Priscilla, visited with Mathis recently, thanking him for the first time in person.
“My feeling was after 96 drowning recoveries, you’d think I could forget one that’s 50 years old, but I couldn’t,” Mathis said.
The deadly storm stayed with so many. This summer divers found much of the cabin still at the bottom of the lake.
“We found a bed frame down there, found a kitchen chair. This debris has been down there from these cabins for 50 years and still sitting down there preserved,” Dan Carlson with the Dive Depot in Bemidji said.
Someone built a storm shelter in town. It hasn’t been used, and people hope it’s never needed.
To commemorate the anniversary, benches will be added to the local park. One has information on the tornado, the other bears the victims’ names.
Outing is hosting a picnic on Aug. 6 at Luscher’s Park, followed by song and words from survivors.