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Reminiscences of June, a Traveling Grandmother

1965, May 6th - June and The Fridley Tornadoes

"JUNE AND THE FRIDLEY TORNADOES - 6 MAY 1965"

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fridley Tornado

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(Photo above: One of of the two main Fridley Tornadoes arriving from the southwest as seen from across Moore Lake in Fridley.  The right arrow appears to be pointing to the approximate position of the Fridley Senior High School. - (Close to June and Stan's Home) Star Tribune Photo)

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June and Stan Berg's first home in Fridley in 1957, on Washington Street  (6361 Washington Street) was  seriously damaged in two tornadoes that struck Fridley (one hour apart) on Thursday May 6th 1965. Washington  Street at June's and Stan's home was only a block long running north and south and just below Mississippi St. The Fridley Commons Park was in the next block south of June's home and at the end of Washington Street.

One of the local papers described the events as “Suburbia’s Longest Night.” The U.S. Weather Bureau recorded a total of 6 tornadoes in an 11 county area that included the Twin Cities. The duration of the tornadoes was from 6:27 to 9:20 PM. The greatest damage was concentrated around the Twin Cities. While Minneapolis was largely untouched, the suburbs to the south west, west and north of the Twin Cities were heavily battered. Extensive damage took place in the suburbs of Fridley, Blaine, Spring Lake Park, Mounds View, Chanhassen, Minnetonka, Golden Valley, Navarre, Deephaven and Wayzata.

Fridley received by far the greatest damage from the tornadoes...two (2) of the tornadoes went directly through Fridley resulting in destruction or severe damage to 2,500 homes and the death of 13 People with injuries to 683.

The Weather Bureau uses the Fujita Scale to measure the strength or intensity of Tornadoes. The scale has 5 levels. F0 to F5. (40-72 mph winds to 261-318 mph winds.) F0 has winds of 40-72 mph. F5 has winds of 261 to 318 mph. F0 to F1 are described as weak tornadoes. F2 to F3 are said to be Strong Tornadoes. F4 to F5 are described as Violent Tornadoes. The weather Bureau classified both Fridley Tornadoes as F4 Tornadoes. (207 to 260 mph winds.)

These Tornadoes were said to be the worst to strike Fridley since 1919 and there has been (as of 2019) nothing even remotely close since that awful night. The Tornadoes caused National attention to be focused on Fridley

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While I did not see President Lyndon B. Johnson’s presence on scene following the tornado’s, there certainly were considerable other politicians, national and state government officials wandering Fridley’s devastation.

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 VICE PRESIDENT HUBERT HUMPHREY

Vice President Hubert Humphrey addressed a crowd assembled at Fridley Commons (immediately south of June’s home):

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Hubert Humphrey

(VP Hubert Humphrey)

 

“I have never seen anything like it. I’ve seen many disaster areas but never one as bad as this that I can remember…the damage I’ve seen is  comparable to a war, and I give you my good wishes, my best hopes and my prayers.”

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Humphrey’s tour was accompanied by Governor Karl Rolvaag, Senator Walter Mondale and Mrs. Humphrey. Senator Eugene McCarthy also toured the area. They all pledged prompt federal aid to the disaster sufferers.

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The National Guard was out in force to protect and prevent looting.

I would hope that the next time Fridley is the center of State and National attention, it is under happier circumstances.

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(Photo below: June and Stan's Home at 6361 Washington Street NE, a few days after the storm, showing temporary repairs and boarded windows. The garage door opening is askew due to the concrete floor being separated from the the house)

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Fridley Tornado Home Damage

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Because the path of two of the tornadoes included Fridley and because these two tornadoes actually crossed in the center of Fridley, the damage to Fridley was by far the most extensive.

Many businesses were destroyed including heavy damage to the Northern Ordnance Plant and Midland Cooperatives. Damage to the Fridley schools was extensive including the Junior High School, the Senior High School, Hayes elementary and Parkview elementary. One of the newspaper headlines described the Fridley damage as “Utter Devastation.

June's and Stan's church, the Redeemer Lutheran Church was set up as an after the storm shelter. The church collected clothing for children who had lost theirs in the storm. One newspaper account pictured small children trying on clothing at the church. June was proud that her church was in the forefront in providing aid to the community following the storm. 

While World War II is described as the big one when discussing wars, the Fridley tornado is also described as the “big one” when discussing Minnesota tornadoes. There has never been a Minnesota Tornado this deadly or of this magnitude, causing such a loss of life and injuries since the tornado of 23 June 1919 that struck Fergus Falls killing 59 people. Nor have any this deadly struck subsequent to the Fridley Tornadoes.

At around 6:00 PM, the storm could be seen approaching from the southwest as a huge bank of greenish dark clouds with lightening glows from within. When the tornado struck, June and Stan's family was all huddled in the basement except  for son Dan. Dan (then age 16) was a few houses away baby-sitting for a neighbor (The Engstroms) during the storm. June had already issued instructions to Dan on the phone, to "take the children to the southwest corner of the basement and wait out the storm."

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(Photo lower right is view of June and Stan's home from the southwest showing boarded over hole on south end of roof - shown with temporary repairs)

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Fridley Tornado south end of home

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The first tornado to arrive in central Fridley was recorded on the stopped Fridley City Hall clock at 7:10 PM. June knew that the storm hit the home when the electric power transformers on the corner of the lot blew out in a flash of red. Simultaneously a puff of dirt and dust blew down the clothes chute. Amid the roaring of the storm, the house sounded like it was being battered to pieces.

In a few minutes the storm passed and a total silence followed. The silence was broken by a lady’s screams. It was never determined who the lady was or whether her scream was the result of injury or anguish on seeing the results of the storm on her home.

June and Stan's home had most of the windows blown out including the large picture window on the west side and the large windows in the family room.

A section of the top rear (south) of the roof was torn away exposing the attic area. The front lawn contained hundreds of sticks that were driven into the lawn at an angle from the southwest like an airplane straffing attack. Some object had plowed a furrow across the lawn leading up to the homes foundation where it had smashed the concrete blocks.

While the damage to June's home was severe, the home could be repaired and restored. A few months later such repairs were completed. Many other homes had damage so severe that they had to be demolished and an entirely new structure built on the old foundation. One area just a few blocks to the north of June and Stan's home in the Rice Creek neighborhood, had total destruction and devastation down to the foundations.

Before the 1st storm arrival, June prayed aloud for the safety of the family. God certainly answered her prayers and the family escaped unharmed. Unfortunately many others in the storm‘s path did not fare as well. The U. S. Weather Bureau records indicate that 13 people were killed and 683 people were injured.

Following the first tornado the family gathered in the back yard to discuss the situation with some of the neighbors. One neighbor’s garage was in June's backyard. Suddenly someone shouted, “There is another one coming.” The family immediately returned to the basement. Northern Ordnance Plant recorded the arrival of the second tornado at 8:10 PM. This tornado did even greater damage to the home and resulted in the attached garage floor being detached from the main foundation and moved away from the house foundation approx. 1/2 foot leaving the door opening askew.

Note: There were rumors that three (3) separate tornado's had struck Fridley...this is clearly untrue...June and Stan's home was centrally located in Fridely. Following the 1st tornado there was a period of quiet and a lull in which the Berg's and  their neighbors were outside discussing the damage when news of another (2nd)  approaching tornado was received...all retreated again to their basements...the 2nd one appeared to be more severe and did greater damage to the Berg home...There was not a 3rd tornado...early the next morning there was a heavy thunderstorm and downpour of rain in which the Berg's attempted to use sheets to prevent the heavy rain from entering the home through the destroyed picture windows...this 3rd storm was simply a normal heavy thunderstorm and not a tornado by any means..

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(June and Stan's backyard neighbors - 1st home has large hole in the roof.  2nd home on right is half missing..part of garage was in June's yard. These homes are fronting on Jefferson Street.- Stan Cleaning up the back yard a few days after the storm.) 

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Fridley Tornadoes backyard

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The following morning a heavy rainstorm drenched Fridley. This event was very demoralizing to an already battered and unprotected community. June and the family struggled to hold a large sheet over the missing picture window to keep some of the torrents of rain out of the living room. With the large hole in the south portion of the roof, this rain also poured into the attic area of the home. To the family’s relief, State Farm Insurance Co. sent out a building contractor with temporary repair facilities at around noon on that Friday morning following the storm. June, Stan and the family were all very happy to see the State Farm truck pull up outside, loaded with plywood, tarpaper and other building supplies. June and the family while thankful for the quick assistance, felt a little awkward and almost embarrassed to get such immediate attention from our insurance company when others with as much damage or more severe damage did not get assistance from their companies for some time...perhaps days later. 

State Farm was required to obtain special permission to come into the area as all of Fridley was blocked off and guarded by the Minnesota National Guard, quickly mobilized to protect the properties from looting. There was also danger from downed power lines and debris in the streets. One neighbor with very severe damage had not heard from their insurance company a month later. They were insured by an some obscure company with home offices in a western state. They probably had a great homeowners insurance rate but that company was not there for the family when most needed. The windows and the hole in the roof were quickly boarded over with large sheets of plywood and tarpaper.  Power was not restored for a few days thereafter.

Because of the damage to the home and the lack of power, June sent the children to their Grandpa and Grandma Rolstad’s farm near Cameron, Wisconsin for a few days. During the confusion following the storm, our son Dan was never paid for his baby-sitting services. Dan has jokingly wondered what his services plus compounded interest would add up to at the present time.

Even during tragic times such as these, Fridley residents did not lose their sense of humor. A few doors away from our home was a devastated home with a sign out side that read: "Wild Parties Every Thursday Night."

The Berg's oldest son David graduated from Fridley High School with the class of 1965 in the year of the tornado. Because of the damage to the Fridley High School, the graduation ceremonies were held in Brooklyn Center. Dave began attendance at the University of Minnesota beginning the fall of 1965. Because of the needs and responsibilities of a young married man, Dave later dropped out of the University in his 4th year, a few credits short of graduation.

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(Photo below of Neighbors home across the street (Washington)  and immediately south west of June and Stan's home - Damage was far more severe and un-repairable)

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Fridley Tornadoes accross the street

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After the Washington Street home was repaired, it was decided to sell the home and build a new home on a small hill in the eastern part of Fridley just east of Moore Lake. The family was very nervous about tornadoes and had heard (correctly or incorrectly) that tornadoes did not go onto hills.

The new home at 6025 Gardena Lane, became June's final and most loved home. That home was completed in July of 1966.

June lived in the 6025 Gardena Lane home for almost 40 years before Alzheimer's took over her life and she moved to a nursing facility March 16th, 2005. June passed away from the complications of Alzheimer's on 23 October 2008.

The tornado damaged neighborhood was a hazard to car tires and continued to be such for several months after the tornadoes.  June and her neighbors would continually be getting flat tires from the building nails scattered about by the storm that were once a part of the damaged buildings. Some may have been the result of the huge building efforts and the repair projects going on continually for months after the storms. A year later one could hardly see any evidence of what had once been an area of massive damage and destruction. The quick restoration of the community was almost miraculous when one compares it to the snails pace restoration that later took place and is still taking place in New Orleans.

Our son Dan later graduated in a new Fridley High School with the class of 1967 while living at the Gardena Lane home. Dan subsequently graduated from the University of Minnesota in June 1971 with a BS degree. Susan also graduated from the Fridley High School Class in 1971. Susan later (June 1973) graduated from Anoka Ramsey Junior College with an AA degree. Julie graduated from the Fridley High School Class of 1976.

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(Below photo - area is just a few blocks north of June and Stan''s home - Rice Creek area of Fridley - the devastation was total and complete down to the foundations. such destruction involved entire blocks of homes) 

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Rice Creek area of Tornadoes

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(Below: Aerial View of Fridley Tornado damage in the area north of June's home on Washington Street. This shows Washington Street area a few blocks North of Mississippi Street. This is near the area shown in the above color picture. Damage was very extensive!)

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Aerial view of Fridley Tornado damage.

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Stan's Note: (March 2019) This page on June's website was set up in May of 2008 and since that time approximately 26,750 persons have visited this page.

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"JUNE'S LIFETIME STORY"

 June's lifetime story

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FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND OTHERS: are encouraged to read/review other chapter's (31 total chapters) in this story of June K. Berg's life. ("Reminiscences of a Traveling Grandmother") Each chapter is intended to be a capsule view of a small segment of June's life and travels'. It is also intended to be a small segment of history from a time period of World War II and the periods both pre and post World War II. You will find the history is accurate and continues to be updated as new records and photographs become available.

Stan had felt the need to tell June's Story, while June was still with us...and while June could  understand how important she was to Stan,  and to the  Family, and to Her Friends. Even as the 3rd Paper Edition was   Published in 2002, June was still doing well and could understand and enjoy her book.

June, a very humble person would never consider her life worthy of a story. To me June has been a lady for "All Seasons". A very unique, bright and highly principled Christian lady. While June like everyone, has likes and dislikes, I have never found her to be uninterested or bored with any thing that life has presented her. June was well traveled. She traveled to Europe twelve (12) times and made at least 100 trips in and around the United States. Most in relation to forensic science matters. June attended some 170 Forensic Science Conferences in the US, Canada, UK, Europe and Russia.

June also had an interest in Sherlock Holmes and visited his haunts in London and collected his memorabilia...To Stan, June was his Dr. Watson for a lifetime.

June would be included in Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation.

The First edition of June's book was in Paper Booklet form with attached photo's of June's life via Insty Prints in 1998, the year of June's Alzheimer's Diagnosis.

The Second Edition of June's Book was another Paper Booklet form with attached pages of photographs, 20 pages in length. Published in the yea 2000 as the "Millennium Edition"

The Third Edition of June's Book was the final Paper Booklet format edition, again with pages of photographs included.This edition was published in 2002 and consisted of 34 Pages of text and photographs.This was June's 75th birthday edition as well as June and Stan's 50th Anniversary.

In the Year 2008, the same Year that June Died, her story and her book became the current online edition.

It has taken the horror of Alzheimer's to awaken Stan to finally and fully plumb the depths, and scope of June's Character, Spirit and Being.

After battling Alzheimer's for almost 12 years, an exhausted June was finally called home by God on October 23rd, 2008.

June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label (Below)

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June's Passing

June 1994

 June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - or Click on:

 

 "June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam"