Stormy anniversary

Published 9:48 am Friday, June 18, 2010

Watching the menacing bands of yellow, orange and red dance across the TV screen Thursday night, Austin officials and residents likely felt a nervous sense of deja vu.

Exactly one year after a tornado ripped through the city, another set of twisters was forming in the area. This time around, Austin dodged a bullet, as the storm largely skirted by to the northwest of town.

However, west of Albert Lea, one person died in the storm and at least 15 others were injured. Other rural areas also sustained damage, including Hollandale and Blooming Prairie.

“I guess you can say I was a little nervous,” Austin parks and recreation director Kim Underwood said Friday morning. “I’m sure everyone was a bit nervous.”

Last year, Underwood had to deal with Todd Park, where a number of trees, fences and baseball diamond lights were destroyed. This time around, she said, the park went unscathed.

“I don’t believe we have any (damage),” Underwood said.

But there were some striking similarities to last year for the parks director — she said on June 17, 2009, her son was outside mowing the lawn in the early evening. On Thursday, he was out there again, until mom rushed him inside.

Deja vu?

“Yeah, a tad bit,” Underwood said.

Larry Dolphin, director of the Jay C. Hormel Nature, which sustained tree and roof damage last year, said he thought there was a greater mindfulness this time around of the threat of tornadoes.

“There was certainly a greater awareness, a little more anxiety after going through what we did last year,” he said.

In 2009, Dolphin said the storm kind of caught the city off-guard, largely because the storm cell popped up suddenly. This time around, with ominous dark clouds looming, Dolphin said it was clear that severe weather could have been headed to Austin.

Julie Champlin, the director’s assistant at the nature center, said she made sure emergency supplies were all in the basement in case a tornado did come through.

Luckily for Dolphin and Champlin, those supplies didn’t need to be used Thursday night, as the storm skirted by.

But not everyone was as lucky, Champlin noted, referencing tornadoes that touched down elsewhere in the state.