Rural Sibley couple survives tornado by hiding in basement
Sunday 10:39 p.m. update SIBLEY, Iowa -- Henry and Twila Bents had no more than stepped into the basement of their rural Sibley home Friday night when a tornado -- estimated at about a half-mile wide at times -- made a direct hit on their two-sto...
Sunday 10:39 p.m. update
SIBLEY, Iowa -- Henry and Twila Bents had no more than stepped into the basement of their rural Sibley home Friday night when a tornado -- estimated at about a half-mile wide at times -- made a direct hit on their two-story home.
The structure was ripped from its foundation, twisted and scattered in a corn field just east of their farmsite and beyond in a storm that damaged or destroyed 11 farms in far eastern Lyon County and western Osceola County.
In the midst of it all, the Bentses survived virtually unscathed. According to Twila's son, Matt Wynja, the couple sustained some scrapes and bruises, and Henry had a sore shoulder.
The two had made it to the bottom steps of their basement when the tornado struck. On Saturday, two bottles of bleach marked the spot where they laid on the cement. Ironically, it was the one area of the basement that was void of debris.
Wynja said the older couple had taken a break from cleanup efforts around noon Saturday to get lunch, leaving family members and volunteers to comb through the debris in search of anything salvageable.
A small pile near the front sidewalk showed little success in that effort -- there was a long, purple knitting needle, a small grass trimmer and an unopened, undamaged bottle of vanilla.
Randy Vande Berg, the Bents' American Family Insurance agent, said a volunteer found Twila's wedding ring among the rubble earlier that morning. Also discovered, about a mile and a half away at the Kim Gacke farm, was a set of Henry's check blanks.
Henry was a collector of things, said Wynja, who resides in Spencer, Iowa. Henry owned more than 50 tractors -- many of them stored on the site hit by the storm. It appeared every one of them sustained at least some damage.
His most prized collectible, however, is likely beyond repair. Wynja said Henry had a completely restored 1959 Corvette and, after walking around some debris in the yard, pointed out four rubber tires attached to an upside down car frame. Aside from the tires and the steering wheel, it was difficult to imagine that the heap of metal was once a classic car.
"He said there were two things dear to him that he missed -- his '59 Corvette and his grandpa and grandma had an old hutch that was destroyed," Vande Berg said. "We found parts of (the hutch) out in the corn field there."
Henry also had a 1984 Corvette that sustained heavy damage. The twister peeled the hood back and tore it in half like a piece of paper. And then there was the car the Bentses used for driving, their Buick Lucerne. That was found in a rolled up heap of metal on the southeast side of the Zylstra farm just down the road.
The Zylstras -- Tommy and wife Beth, along with their two children, Thomas and Charlie, were not at home when the twister tore through the area shortly after 10 p.m. Friday. A friend had called to give them the news, and Tommy's dad, Robert, traveled to the site in West Holman Township Saturday morning from his home in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
"We knew it was all gone (Friday) night, but it's hard to imagine what it's really like until you see it," Robert Zylstra said. "It's just unbelievable what a tornado can do, and everybody knows that. You can't really visualize it until you see it."
Zylstra said family searched through the rubble Saturday morning, but they weren't able to find much worth saving.
"We found a wedding picture," he said.
The Zylstra farm site included a four-bedroom house that had been remodeled in recent years, a machine shed, cattle shed, a barn, storage silos and a stave silo -- all of which were twisted and torn to pieces, then scattered in the fields. The Bents and Zylstra farms were among three in which the homes were completely destroyed.
"There's hardly two or three trees that are salvageable," Zylstra said.
For him, it's the second time the family has had to clean up after a tornado. It was 28 years ago -- in 1982 -- when his parents' home was one of 14 hit by a tornado that went through Sibley.
SIBLEY, Iowa -- Henry and Twila Bents had no more than stepped into the basement of their rural Sibley home when a tornado -- estimated at about a half mile wide at times -- made a direct hit on their two-story home Friday night.
The structure was ripped from its foundation, twisted and scattered in a corn field just east of their farmsite and beyond in a storm that damaged or destroyed 11 farmsites in western Osceola County and far eastern Lyon County.
In the midst of it all, the Bents survived virtually unscathed. According to Twyla's son, Matt Wynja, the couple sustained some scrapes and bruises, and Henry had a sore shoulder.
For more on this story, read Monday's edition of the Daily Globe.