Deer River Neighbors Help Each Other Recover After Tornado
The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado with winds up to 107 miles per hour caused extensive damage in Deer River on Memorial Day. The town and its citizens are left to ask one question: what now?
“The storm started approaching and we were in the house and watching as it progressed, and we were in the front window and watching the sky turn pea green, and all of a sudden the wind came and that was it,” said resident Eileen Johnston, whose garage was damaged by the storm.
Deer River saw heavy winds tear down buildings, uproot trees, and knock over power lines.
“It was instantaneous, as soon as the wind kicked up we saw shingles and lumber and stuff flying 50 foot in the air down our street,” said Deer River Police Chief Brian Castellano. “We’re used to hearing these bad weather reports and possible bad weather and 9 times out of 10 it’s wind or something like that, but not damage like this.”
The cleanup is only the first step in a long recovery process. With houses either partially or fully destroyed and power lines down across the city, leaving some without electricity for almost two days, the community is now coming together to help their neighbors recover.
“People from our church and friends that have stopped by and said, ‘if you need help, call,’ and the city has said [that], and we’ve got a lot of offers to help clean up,” said Eileen Johnston.
“So many good, kind people,” added her husband Marvin Johnston.
“Everyone that is here [to help cleanup] just showed up,” said Carol Skaja, whose home was damaged by the storm. “I didn’t have to call anyone and all the rest of the people that are here that are helping in my yard, and I think there’s like 15 or 20 ’cause a couple more just showed up, just showed up and asked if they could help.”
“It’s kind of like, wow, all the activity that you saw yesterday with people helping clean up in different places, and even after the storm was done all the people checking on their neighbors, people are diving into cleaning up yards almost within the hour after the storm was done,” said Chief Castellano.
It was not only houses that were affected. Businesses and outdoor recreational areas like the area baseball and softball fields experienced damage. However, what can be torn down can also be rebuilt.
“Right now I think for the most part, we’re in pretty decent shape,” said Chief Castellano. “We’ve had tons and tons of offers from other towns, volunteer organizations, which we appreciate very much.”
“It is a great community and I don’t think you can find another community like Deer River because it is so small, it’s a small community, and everybody is willing to help everybody,” said Skaja. “I wouldn’t know what to do without all these people.”
Although it is not confirmed, some buildings like the funeral home and post office may be condemned, leaving Deer River residents to travel further distances for what used to be small town conveniences.
If anyone is interested in volunteering or learning how they can help, contact the Deer River City Hall at (218) 246-8195.