Fridley Tornado: ‘The Neighborhood Will Never Look The Same’

Residents remain in disbelief but are grateful it wasn't worse.

During the tornado Sunday, two pine trees landed on Fridley resident Theresa Pyka's house and fell onto the driveway, denting her car and her husband’s truck. On Monday, she said she expects to be displaced.

“I’m thinking they’re going to condemn (the house),” said Pyka, who lives at 5120 Clearview St. NE. “There’s too much structural damage and it’s not up to code.”

But, like many others affected by the tornado, she said she is feeling grateful.

“All my belongings are intact,” she said. “I might have to take everything and move out, but at least we don’t have to start over.”

Pyka’s husband, Ron, was outside closing the garage door to protect his Harley Davidson motorcycle when he saw the tornado. Theresa was in the basement with the pets. Ron got into the house and was at the top of the stairs heading to the basement when the trees fell.

“I heard the so-called train noise,” Theresa said. “And then the trees, three times the size of my house, fell on the house and landed on both of our cars.”

Sunday night, the fire department posted an orange sign on the front door of her house declaring “limited access” to the house. The fire fighter advised the Pykas  not to sleep in the house.

“He said, ‘If you stay, you won’t be collecting your house insurance, you’ll be collecting your life insurance,’” Theresa Pyka recalled.

She predicted the house will be condemned in about six months and then torn down.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” she said. “It is what it is: there’s nothing you can do.”

She said she is “a little upset” that her plants and garden were destroyed—"but that all can be replaced."

'Feeling Lucky'
Jim and Brenda Anderson raked and picked up branches strewn across their lawn Monday evening. Their house at 5134 Horizon Dr. NE, has wind damage to the roof.

The couple were in St. Louis Park Sunday when they heard on the radio that the tornado was headed to Fridley and “high-tailed it home,” where their 24-year-old daughter took cover in the basement.

“By the time we got home, the damage was done,” Jim Anderson said. “The neighborhood will never look the same.”

A tree crushed the Anderson’s neighbor’s car. And all around, large trees had fallen in yards and on top of houses.

“We’ve never experienced something like this so close to home,” Brenda Anderson said, holding back tears. “I’m feeling the disbelief at what has happened.”

After spending the day cleaning up debris, the couple was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, they said, but “still feeling lucky that this is all that happened.”

“Compared to North Minneapolis, I feel very fortunate,” Brenda Anderson said.

Her husband agreed. “It might be strange-sounding to say we’re feeling very lucky, when you look at the devastation around you,” Jim Anderson said. “But it could have been a lot worse.”

Pretty Bad, Pretty Scary
Kimberly Arias, who lives at 5057 Clearview St. NE, got home about 10 minutes after the tornado had hit. Even then, “It was pretty bad, it was scary,” she said.

A tree in her front yard had fallen and “just missed the house,” she said.

Her next-door neighbor, John Skyberg, had been barbequeing outside when suddenly, heavy rain poured down. He shut off the grill and ran inside to the basement. When he headed back upstairs to get the cat, the wind was blowing to the left so hard that he thought his storm door would fly off. When he went upstairs again, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction.

“It was about five minutes, and the worst was gone,” Skyberg said. “We came upstairs, and that’s when we saw everything everywhere.”

He considers himself lucky as he “didn’t lose a single tree,” he said. Only his cable TV is knocked out.

But he will never forget that day.

“It was pretty scary,” he said.

‘Everything Was Black’
The sounds of the tornado woke up Terrance May, 16, who lives at 5133 Hughes Ave. NE. He was taking a nap Sunday afternoon.

“I looked out the window, and everything was black,” he said. “You could see the tornado, then suddenly it disappeared.”

Two trees from his backyard landed on his next-door neighbor’s house.

“It was something I’ve never seen before,” he said.

His mother, Melita May, added, “It was quite an experience.”

Here to Help
The neighborhood was scattered with people helping neighbors clean up while exchanging stories about what had happened.

Dean Nicholson and Eric Anderson, who both live on Clearview Street NE, stood in front of a neighbor’s house on Hughes Ave. NE Monday evening, asking if anyone needed help.

Nicholson was visiting a relative at North Memorial Hospital during the tornado, and almost got trapped in an elevator when the power went out in the elevator, right after the doors opened.

“It was pitch black,” Nicholson said. “Then later, we came down Main Street, and I couldn’t get through to get to my house.”

Anderson, Nicholson’s neighbor, said his wife told him the tornado was “the loudest thing she’s ever heard.”

Nicholson and Anderson lucked out---no trees fell onto their houses. They walked down Hughes Avenue NE in awe, but kept in mind the worse damage in North Minneapolis.

“North Minneapolis looks like a war zone,” Nicholson said. “It makes this look like peanuts.”

Sevala Husic, a 37-year-old single mother who lives on Topper Lane NE, was also walking around the neighborhood offering help.

“There’s a lot of damage. Look at this,” she said. “This is going to be hard to clean up.”

She wanted to donate food or clothing to those in North Minneapolis who have lost their belongings, she said, but didn’t know where to go. (.)

Husic, who came to Fridley from Bosnia about 10 years ago, knows what it is like to lose everything.

“I lost my house in Bosnia,” she said. “I don’t want to see people with children who have lost everything and are going hungry.”

When she first arrived in Fridley, she had nothing, she said.

“A lot of people helped me,” she said. “I never forgot how people helped me, so I try to help people, too."


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »