On Thursday, September 20, a strong line of thunderstorms raced across southern Minnesota. Shortly before 6:30 p.m., an area of rotation developed and a tornado touched down in Waterville, about 20 miles east of Mankato. The tornado, rated an EF-1 with winds estimated by the National Weather Service between 90-100 MPH, tracked northeast and struck the south and east ends of Camp Omega before dissipating two miles northeast of the camp.
Because the storm hit around dusk, Bob LaCroix, director at Camp Omega, recalled his uncertainty about the state of the camp. “There was a sense of relief the next morning as I drove around seeing the main camp mostly intact with very minor damage, just lots of trees down.”
However, in other areas of the camp, the damage was more significant. “There were parts of the camp we couldn’t get to for a while because of the trees down, so not knowing [the damage] was the biggest concern,” explained LaCroix
When the farthest reaches of Omega were finally surveyed, one of the tepees and one of the treehouses were found to be seriously damaged or destroyed. Additionally, the amount of tree damage throughout the camp property was found to be quite serious.
In the wake of the storm damage, the volunteer response has been a blessing to Camp Omega, with numerous schools, churches, and individuals asking how they can help, according to LaCroix. He explained that there will be a continued need for volunteers over the next six to eight months.
Some of the specific needs are:
Volunteers to haul brush and operate chain saws
Wood chippers to mulch branches
Bucket trucks to aid in cutting down damaged limbs and branches higher up in trees
“It’s the worst storm I’ve endured, but God’s hand continues to play out” in the relatively minimal damage to camp property and buildings and the quick action from volunteers, observed LaCroix. “We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but we’ll get there.”
Volunteers who desire to help clean up Camp Omega are encouraged to contact the camp office at 507-685-4266.
This same line of thunderstorms spawned a total of at least sixteen tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service Twin Cities office. However, no other LCMS churches or schools were known to be damaged by the storms at the time of publishing.