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Northfield storm survivor: ‘My farm is a disaster zone’

September 21, 2018

Hunkered down in the cellar with candles at the ready, Katie Engelmann and her four young children listened in fear as glass shattered and century-old oak trees came crashing down on her Northfield farm home Thursday night.

It sounded like a freight train over the house, she said Friday morning from a nearby hotel where her family spent the night after a powerful storm unleashed its fury on Northfield and much of southern Minnesota. For 15 minutes it was scary, then dead silence. The kids were rocked.

Engelmann, her husband, and their children all under the age of 9 survived unscathed, but the home they moved into in November sustained major damage, much of that inflicted by an oak tree protruding into the living room and creating a gaping hole.

Barn doors and windows were blown out, too, but their horses, cows, goats and chickens all survived. Electric poles rested at a 45 -degree angle and more than 30 trees that once stood tall lay flat.

My farm is a disaster zone, Engelmann said. Its insane.

The winds blew away one neighbors barn and trees blocked driveways along Falk Trail, also known as County Road 22, she said.

For Engelmann, the nights devastating brought back memories of the devastating March 1998 tornado in St. Peter, where she helped with the clean up.

That is what this reminds me of, she said while surveying the damage across her 17-acre property and hearing about neighbors losses. One neighbor lost two cars, she said.

The storm was just the latest in a run of hard luck for the Engelmanns. The family had been living in Florida, but was displaced when Hurricane Irma brought widespread destruction to the Sunshine State. The family relocated to Northfield and bought the idyllic farm. The majestic oak trees were a major selling point.

That is one reason we bought the farm, she said.

Shortly after moving in, their home was damaged in by a fire. It was just recently that the damage was repaired, Engelmann said.

Then came Thursdays storm.

Despite the damage, Engelmann was in good spirits Friday while she ate breakfast with her kids in a local hotel and prepared for a big cleanup job.

Waffles cure all ills, she said. And we have good insurance.

Tim Harlow 612-673-7768

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