Record tornadoes 20 years ago changed St. Peter, surrounding communities forever

Thursday will mark 20 years since one of the most historic storms in state history.

A record 14 tornadoes hit southwest Minnesota on March 29, 1998 — killing two people.

Now the community of St. Peter is honoring the victims, and reflecting on how its grown as a city since that time. 

“Everyone has a tornado story,” said Todd Prafke, the St. Peter city administrator. 

Prafke said 200 homes were destroyed in the storm, 400 had major structural damage and 1,200 more had some kind of damage.

“It was just like a bomb that went off here,” he said. 

Prafke started his job and moved to the city of St. Peter just a few months before the storm hit the city. 

“It was very surreal,” he recalls. “No light, no electricity.” 

“We knew it was going to be explosive, the atmosphere had a lot of energy,” remembers KSTP Chief Meteorologist Dave Dahl. 

Dahl remembers coming in to work early that day.

He said most of the 14 tornadoes came from one super-cell – including one 67-mile long storm path. 

“That is the longest single tornado path ever in Minnesota, and from that same storm St. Peter happened,” Dahl said. 

The storm also caused damage to every building at Gustavus Adolphus. The school estimated more than $50 million worth of damage.

Luckily it was spring break, but not everyone was off campus.