Stephanie Dues’ second grade son Mark recently learned about tornado watches and warnings at his Coldwater Elementary School.
“Now, he’s lived through one,” she said.
An F2 tornado ripped through their Mercer County farm’s machine shop, hay barn, feed mixing building, new grain leg and a grain bin not more than 50 yards from where Stephanie, her husband, Nick, and their three children huddled together in the basement of their Coldwater home. It was one of two tornadoes that came through the county Nov. 5.
“It was over in 30 seconds,” she said, recalling how loud the wind blew.
When all was calm, Nick ran outside and simply stated, “Everything is gone.”
Not everything, but a lot. Still standing were the house and the barn next to their driveway where more than 200 head of beef cattle were taking shelter.
The Dues live close to the rest of their family. Nick’s parents, Bill and Lisa, live about two miles away and brother Ryan lives a mile or two down the road. The Mercer County Farm Bureau members are a third, fourth and sprouting a fifth generation farmers raising their beef cattle and hogs.
Property was damaged and debris was spread all over the place. A neighbor’s livestock trailer had been lifted and wrapped along a treeline at the back of the Dues farm, about a mile and a half away.
The storm hit Mercer County about 2 p.m. on Sunday, passing through areas close by up and down State Route 49 and into Celina. There were no fatalities or major injuries, though some livestock was lost in the county. Several homes and farms suffered significant damage.
Yet all of that can be replaced. Lisa recalled praying as she listened to trees snapping while she and Bill rode out the storm at their home. It wasn’t long after the storm that neighbors, friends and fellow farmers went to work to help clean up.
They came in droves, Stephanie said, with trailers and trucks to haul away debris.
“People we didn’t even know came,” Stephanie said. “They just stopped to help. They started on Sunday and had pretty much everything cleaned up by Monday night.”
Farm Credit Mid-America, Mercer County Farm Bureau, Hull Brothers Equipment, Winner’s Meats and Eikenberry Market all rallied to help those affected by the tornado – providing a total of 800 boxed lunches over two days and delivering them to people helping with the clean-up effort.
Mercer County Farm Bureau Board Member Dennis Howick said the group worked out of Farm Credit’s office, which had no power, to organize the effort.
“They were great,” Howick said of Farm Credit. “We loaded everything up and delivered the boxes right to the farm.”
Howick said the community response “makes a person glad to live in the area.”
Nationwide Insurance is helping, too, Lisa said. The Dues’ agent is Matt Jordan from the Jordan Agency in Greenville.
“They have been really good,” Lisa said. “It feels like they are really working for us.”
She noted that farmers are a “proud people” and not always comfortable accepting help, but they have. The hard part is how to show their appreciation. The Dues family put a letter in the local paper, which reads, in part: “We will all forever recall the tornado of ’17, but what we will remember most is the kindness and help from so many, those we knew and those who were strangers.”
Photo caption: An aerial view of the damage done to the Dues farm by a Nov. 5 tornado in Mercer County.