HomeTop StoriesIn memory of the tornado of St. Anthony Village, 40 years later

In memory of the tornado of St. Anthony Village, 40 years later

ST. ANTHONY VILLAGE, Minn. – In light of Severe Weather Awareness Week, a group of people are remembering the devastating tornado in St. Anthony Village.

It happened forty years ago this month.

One person was killed and homes, businesses, churches and schools were severely damaged or destroyed.

“It was oppressive at the end of April,” Melba Hansel said.

It’s a group of people talking about the weather. But instead of going to the prediction, they go back 40 years.

“All the windows on my south side blew right into the house,” Bob Manske said.

READ MORE: The Red Cross offers safety tips for tornadoes and thunderstorms during Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota

April 26, 1984 was a warm and dry day. But by 8:30 that night, the winds had increased and an F3 tornado rolled through St. Anthony Village.

“There was no warning about this thing — it still amazes me to this day,” said Tim Mezzenga, who was also a first responder.

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‘Suddenly I realized there was a strange sound. What is that?’ said Hans.

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WCCO


Hansel and other members of the group still live in the same homes as they did in 1984. They don’t remember a tornado siren going off and no cell phones. Bonnie Brever was at an event and couldn’t reach her sons and babysitter. So she ran home through the damage and destruction.

‘It brought tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Oh my God, what a relief it was to know they were safe,” Brever said.

“I remember seeing my preschool and half the wall had been removed and I saw the bathroom there, open to the elements,” said Eric Brever, Bonnie’s son.

Eric Brever was 5 years old that day. He remembers how dark things got when the storm knocked out the power.

“The babysitter told us, I think, there’s a tornado and I think I said, ‘Well, we better just get on deck and pray,’” Eric Brever said.

READ MORE: The first-ever tornadoes in Wisconsin in February caused $2.4 million in damage

That sentence became the title for Gail Olson’s book about the St. Anthony tornado. Some of the people she interviewed were left with nothing.

“This was such a profound event that it stuck with people. It’s still in people’s minds today,” Olson said.

There were many more oddities that came out of this tornado. A homeowner found 200 dead birds on the side of his garage. Another found dozens of shoes in his garden. They came from Apache Mall.

It was one of the oldest malls in the United States, but it was ravaged by the storm. To make matters worse, it snowed during the cleanup in St. Anthony. Yet that is what Mary Pucel remembers most. How people put their neighbors before themselves.

“It’s about the community coming together. That’s the most important thing you remember, after all this time,” Pucel said.

Fifty-three people were injured and three of the city’s four churches were damaged by the tornado.

To this day, some people still find debris in their yards or on their property as a result of that tornado.

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