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Column: Reaction to storm was cool to see

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opinion Farmington, 55024
Farmington Independent
651-463-7730 customer support
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

I was really confused Friday morning.

I don't often sleep with my windows closed during the summer. I like to sleep with fresh air, so unless it's really hot for a really long time, I don't turn on my air conditioner at night. Well, last week was really hot for a really long time. The AC was on. My windows were closed.

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But I still woke up around 3:40 a.m. I heard sirens - storm sirens. I could hear the rain outside, but it didn't seem all that hard. I have a weather radar application on my cell phone, so I checked that. Sure enough, there was a storm warning. According to the warning from the National Weather Service, a thunderstorm capable of producing quarter-sized hail was possible.

I got up and peered out my bedroom window. I went back to bed and waited. I heard more rain, but eventually, I just fell back to sleep, wondering why the sirens had gone off in the first place.

I was looking forward to a day of scooping ice cream at the Dakota City drug store when I got up. I dressed accordingly, finding a red shirt as I was instructed. And then I checked my Facebook wall. A friend posted a message about Farmington being hit by storm damage.

What? Really? Where? Not by my house... really?

A phone call to the police department later, and I was on my way up Akin Road.

Covering things like this is never really fun. Shocking. Heartbreaking. Incredible. But not fun. And looking around at the damage in the central part of our community was not fun in the least bit.

However, it was cool.

I don't mean to bring on the ire of those whose homes were damaged - something about "that cocky reporter who lives on the east side of town doesn't know what she's talking about" or anything like that - but Friday's activity was very cool to me.

It wasn't the storm damage that was impressive. It was the way neighbors and friends came together to work through the experience.

I tooled around the damaged neighborhoods several times over the weekend (that was my little red car with the missing hubcap that kept driving down those streets) just to see what was going on. And what I saw was better than a National Night Out gathering.

Regardless of what time I drove around, there were groups of people working together to clean up the mess in someone's yard. A few people I spoke with told me they really didn't know whose yard they were working in, they just saw that someone needed help. I ran into one of Boeckman Middle School's teachers out there. She lived two blocks away and her home wasn't damaged, but she was going home to make sandwiches to hand out to those whose homes were struck.

And then there were the groups of people hanging out at the ends of the driveways. Lawn chairs clustered around, residents standing back and talking, likely taking breaks and sharing tales.

I've made a lot of phone calls to Farmington city officials over the past couple of days. Over and over again, I hear how accommodating the residents of those torn neighborhoods were to city crews, how helpful the residents were in assisting in clean-up efforts around the storm-damaged section of the community. Even during Monday's Farmington City Council meeting, city administrator Peter Herlofsky acknowledged the efforts of those residents.

"This community really has a lot of strength and character," he said. And he's right.

We are crazy lucky that no one was hurt in the tornado, and this storm will likely stick in the minds of residents for years to come. But if anything good can come from it, hopefully our residents know they can count on one another, and that they've got the support of the rest of the community behind them.

And really, that is cool, isn't it?

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and is the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 702-0974
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