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‘Thrilled to have the house left’

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

A sudden tornado Wednesday night tore up Perry and Nancy Byam’s windbreak, tossed a massive oak 18 feet onto their road, took out their power and twisted plans for their daughter’s Aug. 22 wedding.

They live on the northwest side of Austin near the Veit landfill and were home last night when they heard about a tornado on TV.

"It seemed like it was getting closer and closer," Larry said this morning when clearing debris. "I looked out the window, the clouds were just spinning on ground level."

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It sounded more like a regular thunderstorm, he said. When they looked east, they could see the tornado going over Austin itself.

"There was no real funnel cloud, but you could see the cloud of debris spinning overhead," he said. "It was slow, it was really slow; it took its own sweet time."

Then they looked around their yard.

"I was just shocked," he said.

A large oak was ripped up and laying over the road, the windbreak he and his wife had planted 27 years before to keep their home warmer in winter was in tatters, with pieces strewn around.

"It was just gorgeous (before), and they are just snapped off," he said.

But their house was virtually untouched, the windbreak had apparently saved it. "Our house was still there," Nancy said. "We were lucky."

"(I’m) thrilled to have the house left, a bed to sleep in," Perry said.

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Once they cut up and haul away debris, they will have to work on restoring the windbreak, Nancy said. They already planted small white pines and sugar maples but they are only a few feet tall, she said.

The real problem will be the flower garden, which was a mess.

That was where their daughter, Courtney Byam, wanted to get married Aug. 22. She loved the shade of those windbreak trees, the flowers, the peace.

The trees are gone. So are flowers. "This whole thing was flowers — was is the operative word," Nancy said when tossing branches onto a pile.

She hopes for at least some flowers by the wedding. "We can grow things again; it takes time," she said.

"We don’t know what we’re going to do," Perry said.

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