By Jean Caspers-Simmet

WATERLOO, Iowa — Steve and Jan Pullin, who farm north of Waterloo, were at a graduation party in Dunkerton May 25 and they stopped to check on Steve’s mother.

"We hunkered down there until the storm was over and about 30 minutes later the neighbors called," Steve said.

An aerial picture shows what their farm looked like before the tornado.


The barn, the shop, most of the outbuildings — including a new machine shed, a mobile home, rented by a friend serving in Kosovo, and a 10,000-bushel grain bin were destroyed. Much of their machinery was damaged. An engineer was due out to inspect their house. They fear there is severe structural damage.

Dunkerton Co-op staff and friends of their son, Tim, vacuumed up corn from the downed bin.

"Our friends and family are all here helping," Jan said.

A tornado that came through in 2000 just missed the couple’s farm. Their neighbors to the north weren’t so lucky. They lost their homes a second time.

Patrick Sperfslage, whose family lives southwest of Aurora, graduated from high school on May 25 and he and his parents, Dan and Diane, were attending graduation receptions.

"At the last reception, the host said we better go to the basement," Diane said. "Dan helped him take his tent down and we decided we’d head for home. Dan was going to go out to the barn to help our son Shawn, who was milking cows. Patrick, Kelli, our daughter who lives in Boston who was home for Patrick’s graduation, and her boyfriend went to the basement. Our windows were breaking and water was coming in so I was putting Tupperware out to catch the water. The kids were praying their hearts out in the basement."

Dan made it partway to the barn, and buildings started falling. He crawled under a car and crawled back to the house. He eventually went out to the barn and found Shawn in a corner against a wall.

"Dan said Shawn was saying the rosary," Diane said. "I didn’t know that he even knew the rosary. Shawn was in the barn when the roof came off and everything came down. We lost a machine shed, a shop and a hog building, too."


Shawn, who just took over the herd in January, lost one milk cow and two younger cattle.

"There have been hundreds of people here helping," Diane said. "People I don’t even know. Our neighbors are all in the same boat, but we touch base every day. People are phenomenal."

Patrick’s graduation reception, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day, went on as planned. It was in a rented hall.

Dan said they moved the 50-head dairy herd to his brother’s at Wood Center. Shawn goes there every night to milk, stays the night, milks in the morning and then returns home to help.

Their new tractors and combine are being repaired at Hub City so the cleanup crew is using the older tractors. The Sperfslages’ crops were planted, but 6.5 inches of rain after the tornado put some fields under water.

"We lost everything but the house and one cattle shed," Dan said as he walked into the collapsed dairy barn with daylight streaming through. "This is where we milked 50 cows morning and night. There’s so much damage. I don’t know what to fix first."

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