'I'm lost' says man who survives tornado

BLUFFTON - Jim Peters' plan was to take cover in the basement immediately after closing the front door. He had no idea a tornado was literally on his doorstep. The winds ripped the front door off the hinges and the next thing Peters remembers is ...

BLUFFTON - Jim Peters' plan was to take cover in the basement immediately after closing the front door.

He had no idea a tornado was literally on his doorstep.

The winds ripped the front door off the hinges and the next thing Peters remembers is waking up leaning on the counter, people calling his name to check on him.

"I don't know how long I was there," Peters says. "They said they hollered at me seven times before I made it out the door."

His pick-up truck ended up on its roof down in the ditch by the mailbox.


"To tell you the truth, I probably wouldn't be alive if my house would have completely went."

"I think that's my camper in the bottom of that field way over there. I have a 26-foot camper and I think all is there are the axles. This stuff goes every direction. East, west, north, it don't make no difference," Peters said.

Peters has 80 acres of land west of Bluffton off Hwy 10. His folks farmed the land for 47 years. He has been living here since 2000.

Peters says his parents probably lost 10 trees in 47 years. Between two wind storms a couple years ago and this, he has lost a thousand.

"I'll probably be able to see Mills now," he says tongue-in-cheek. "I can see them houses up there now that I never seen before."

Of seven structures on the property, all have been destroyed. His house is totaled.

"Everything is totaled," says Peters.

The only thing that remains of the 32' by 68' shed he built five years ago is the gravel slab where it once stood.


"I built 2"x8" over 2"x10" rafters. They (builders) said they wouldn't blow down in a hurricane. I wish I could bring them out and show them."

When asked where he goes from here, Peters replies, "I don't. I'm lost. I don't know. I just don't know."

All that remains on his property, other than the house, are piles of wood, tin, plastic and other materials.

Volunteers have been in and out helping to clean up but debris cannot be removed fast enough.

Peters says more volunteer help is needed, especially during the week when the landfill is open.

"All these people here are good neighbors. That's the good thing. We know each other. Been here for ages. Most of these people have the homesteads, we're pretty much all related," Peters says.

Volunteer opportunities

Local volunteers have been helping out the communities of Wadena and Bluffton since the tornadoes tore through the area.


Volunteers from the New York Mills Lions Club, New York Mills Babe Ruth, Hammer's Construction and many more have spent much time cleaning up.

Otter Tail and Wadena Counties are working together in a single program to provide relief in both counties.

Those seeking to volunteer services should check in at the parking lot of the vacant Pamida building on Highway 71 about a half mile north of Hwy 10 in Wadena, or they can call 211 from a land line or 1-800-543-7709 from a cell phone. Those who are still in need of volunteer services should call 218-640-3432.

The center cannot provide volunteers to work on or in private structures and cannot work in wood lots. Individuals with private wood lots should contact DNR Forestry at 218-846-8363. The center especially can use the help of organized groups of volunteers with their own leadership.

Property owners who sustained damage should document their loss and expenses. Photographs can be very helpful. This is necessary both for insurance claims, and if any individual relief becomes available through FEMA. Oftentimes, the only available relief for individuals are low interest loans through the Small Business Administration. For many disasters, FEMA only provides reimbursement to the costs incurred by local governments. Farmers sustaining loss to crops and livestock should report their losses to their local Farm Service Agency. The East Otter Tail number is 218-346-4260; the Wadena County number is 218-631-2876.

The two counties continue to accept storm debris at the old Wadena airport east of the city on Sunnybrook Road. This site is only for storm debris and cannot accept other items such as new construction debris. Debris should be presorted into tree waste, scrap metal, masonry debris and other construction debris. More information is available on the Wadena and Otter Tail County web sites. and .

Property owners are responsible for bringing the debris to the center; the volunteers do not have the resources.

A request has been made through the Governor's Office to the Federal Emergency Management Administration for a disaster declaration. Long-term disaster relief planning continues.

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