Hulne: Recalling a tornado delay at Marcusen

Published 3:38 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

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It is funny how some people tend to stick around in the world of sports.

When I first arrived in Austin as the sports editor of the Herald in 2008, Brian Voigt was a senior three-sport athlete on a Southland football team that went unbeaten in the regular season, a solid basketball team and baseball team that took second in the Class A state baseball tournament.

Voigt, who was recently named head coach at Division II Upper Iowa, went on to play baseball and basketball for Riverland Community College and he played baseball at Augustana College. But those things are not what I remember Voigt for. I’ll always remember him for being associated with the strangest baseball game I’ve ever covered.

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Voigt was at the plate in an ordinary amateur baseball game for the Austin Blue Sox on June 17 of 2009 when shots of lightning began to flicker in the background. As the storm began to pick up, I turned to current Herald editor Eric Johnson, who was a photographer at the time, and asked him why they weren’t stopping the game.

Johnson, with an equal amount of seriousness mixed with his joke, had a quick and hilarious response.

“You can’t stop the game in the middle of a Brian Voigt at-bat!”

Alas, Voigt did finish that at-bat, but the Blue Sox never finished that game. 

Just before 8 p.m. as the first inning was wrapping up, Johnson and I noticed that the clouds hovering past Marcusen Park’s center field fence were starting to get darker and eventually they began to form a funnel. 

A tornado was unfolding and the town siren was blowing.

Before we could even form a plan, I turned to see Johnson sprinting towards his car with his camera in hand, ready to chase the storm.

I was left in awe as the sky turned dark and both teams retreated to their dugouts. A few of the opposing players gathered near the pitcher’s mound to record the storm, which can be seen here:

The next few minutes were surreal as I froze up and wondered where I should go. I only live a few blocks from Marcusen Park, but I didn’t want to get carried away – literally. 

I finally made the decision to drive home and ride the storm out in my basement.

That tornado was registered as an EF2 with winds from 111 to 135 miles per hour and it did a lot of damage to Todd Park, but most of the community was spared. As the storm died down, the weather cooled and it ended up being a peaceful summer night.

As for Voigt, I was happy to see his name pop up in the news again as he became a Division II head baseball coach, but I sure hope it doesn’t mean that another tornado is on its way.