16 Apr 2009

the Har Mar Tornado

Posted by Teapots Happen

June 14, 1981

My family provided me with one distinct memory of an interesting coincidence.

I was almost 4 years old in June of 1981 when my parents brought me and my 1 year old sister into South Minneapolis to buy a ceiling fan. When we arrived at the store, my sister was asleep so my dad went into the store alone. Probably this is a constructed memory, but it seems that I can actually remember hanging out of the car window in the parking lot’s heat, sitting atop the car door – and then having the sudden compulsion to start banging my toy on the roof of the car.

south minneapolis tornado 1981

South Minneapolis - Chicago Ave - June 14th 1981

The banging woke up my sister, of course, and she started to cry – so my mom decided that we should go into the store, since walking soothed the baby. I don’t remember any of the rest, but my folks both remember it well.
My dad writes:

“You saved the family. You woke baby Jessa up so your mom decided to come in to the store. Within five minutes the storm hit and the car was filled inside with bricks and boards and glass from nearby buildings. It was lifted into the air and dropped down again – there was a big pile of debris under the car. All inside would have been badly hurt or worse. There were boards driven through the tires and sides of the car – right through the metal!”

smashed in rear window

smashed in rear window

We put you kids against an inner wall and then stood over you with our backs facing away from the wall.  We stood there holding you kids against us and the wall the entire time the tornado was raging (not too long )
My mom recalls:

“It was our wedding anniversary, your sister was teething and uncomfortable.  I had no sooner locked the car and went into the lighting store, where your father was finishing ordering our kitchen fan light,  when your Dad’s ears started popping … you were near the large pane glass windows of the storefront.  He grabbed you by the suspenders, and saw bricks flying and a huge tree going by sideways.  All was queerly quiet until in the darkness where we were gathered with other customers some folks started screaming hysterically.  Others were very quiet and soon it was established that no one was missing or hurt.  A child had been separated from the parents.

It was eerie after the storm passed.  There was no siren, no sound, and devastation everywhere.


Har Mar Tornado 1981

other cars in the devastated parking lot

As we were directed to leave the lighting store and go to the larger Sears building the sirens began going off.  It appeared as though we were walking through a war zone.  The walk seemed endless … I nursed Jessa and you played at my feet.   How I ever produced milk for the baby is beyond me. A good samaritan gave us a ride home.”

our smashed car

our smashed and battered car


The storm that had come right through the parking lot and totaled our family car was the famous Edina / Har Mar Tornado, which struck with no advance alert, injuring 83 people and killing one as it covered 15 miles in 27 minutes – touching down in Edina, roaring past Lake Harriet, and ravishing the Har Mar Mall with its final fury.



surf to a random post

subscribe by email

subscribe w/ a reader

Subscribe to Comments

No Responses to “the Har Mar Tornado”

  1. Great synchro! Scary, too.


    Trish MacGregor