Survivors Can Still Recall Tracy Tornado 50 Years Later

June 13, 2018 11:10 PM

The clock stopped at 7:03 p.m. at Tracy Elementary School on June 13, 1968.

But time certainly wasn't standing still in the small town about three hours southwest of the Twin Cities.


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The first F-5 tornado recorded in the state struck the community that night, killing nine people and injuring 125 others. More than 100 homes and businesses were destroyed.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS covered the aftermath of that storm from the air, and on the ground with reporters and photographers dispatched to the scene shortly after reports of the tornado's devastating power.

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One of the Tracy residents featured in KSTP's coverage was 16-year-old, Rita Forbregd, whose home was destroyed by the tornado.

Her family was able to escape injury by taking shelter in the basement of their house.

KSTP located Forbregd a half-century later working as a hair stylist in Fargo where she recalled the devastation of that somber day.

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"It is hard to believe it's been that long," Forbregd said.  "I am 66 years old now and I can still remember it quite vividly. And I think we were all just in shock.

"Because when we came out from downstairs, everything was just gone."

Janet Ziemke-Hill, now 67, said she and her five younger siblings were home alone when the tornado began approaching Tracy shortly before 7 p.m.

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They ran across the street to a neighbor's house because it had a basement and their home did not.

"We ran as fast as we could, and just barely made it into our neighbor's cellar in time," Ziemke-Hill said.

"The tornado sounded like a Tasmanian devil spinning around. And you thought if you moved at all, it was going to swoop down and gobble you up."

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Ziemke-Hill said five of the nine people killed were in her Greenwood neighborhood. Her own home had only one wall standing when she and her siblings emerged from her neighbor's cellar.

"When we came outside it was like we were on another planet," she said. 

"Our house was gone. There were cars stuck up in trees. And there were other homes that were thrown right out into the street. If they were not already demolished."

Ziemke-Hill said the experience made a lasting impact on the entire town.

"We were lucky, because we would have perished in our house if we had stayed there," she said. 

"And to see some of our neighbors die that day is something that just never leaves you."


Jay Kolls

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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