Archive for June, 2011

A new project

My band Junebug has begun work on our third album, Beards.

Categories: Music

Tornado in My Neighborhood (part three)

[This entry was originally posted as a “note” on Facebook on May 25, 2011.]

Yesterday, we decided to drive around our neighborhood. We had thought, since we saw many more of the roads cleared in our immediate area, that it would be okay to do so. We drove further south on Logan than I had been on Sunday, south of Lowry Avenue. We thought that we had seen some pretty bad damage previously, but it was really nothing compared to the area between 29th and Lowry.

We shouldn’t have been there. That’s the simplest fact about our drive yesterday. Liza was driving and I was shooting video footage on my iPod, but once we got below Lowry, I put it away. I immediately felt dirty and sick. And we immediately tried to find the quickest way out of the area and out of people’s way. But the thing is that we couldn’t easily get out once we got in. The streets are not cleared there. There are still trees over the roads, there are Xcel Energy trucks everywhere, frantically working on the power lines and still attempting to clear the downed lines. The roads are narrow, only allowing one car through at a time, and sometimes only barely. The road is littered with debris even still – glass, insulation, sticks, branches, sawdust, a stray sock or t-shirt. Branches that have been sheared from downed trees are stockpiled at the curb. Vehicles crushed beyond repair sit, waiting.

People are still in their houses, even when there is little house left. One family sat perched on their stoop, while leaves rustled on their branches in the fully exposed bedroom and bathroom upstairs. The family eyed our van with contempt as we slowly slithered past. What made it worse was that we weren’t alone. Our van was only part of a caravan of sight-seers, which the neighborhood is undoubtedly sick of. It pained me to be part of this voyeuristic parade.

People were everywhere. Residents and neighbors were chatting. Assessors were writing on their clipboards. Children, who do not yet grasp the magnitude of the situation, were climbing on the fallen trees and playing tag amongst the wreckage. Families were grilling in their yard, behind the barrier forest of downed trees – the very trees that are currently crushing the homes in which they continue to live. Shelter has been offered to them, but they choose to stay in their homes for fear of being victims of the low-life scum that are stealing belongings from ravaged homes. One house had a giant plywood sign out front which read in spray paint, “I am home, and WILL protect.”

We did make it out of the terrible maze, following the four wheel drive Suburban in front of us. We got back to our house, unloaded our belongings from our Dollar Store shopping trip, took the baby in the house and got ready for the night. The power came back on. So life is back to normal at the Kollman house now. But just a few blocks south of our cozy little family, a couple blocks east, and a few more northeast, life is not even close to returning to normal.

There is natural disaster devastation in our own city, and half the people I talk to have no idea what even happened, not to mention the scope of it. Keep these people in your thoughts and prayers. Don’t drive through there. Consider volunteering or donating.

Categories: Life, Weather

Tornado in My Neighborhood (part two)

Eric and I headed south on Logan Avenue in the Kollman minivan, toward the sirens and commotion. We summited the small hill south of where we had been and the first thing we saw was that the road was impassible. There was a literal wall of downed trees blocking the way at the far end of the block. I put the van in reverse, turned around, and went west for a block, then south again. When there was an opening, I turned east to once again get to Logan and I parked the van. It became obvious that there was no way to get around down there by motor vehicle. We would have to walk if we were going to get anywhere.

We walked south on Logan Avenue and it was a horrible obstacle course of tree trunks and crushed cars. We had to criss-cross our way through the maze, across the street and back again, just to make it down the block. What I saw there couldn’t be justified in words. I pulled out my phone and started shooting video. I’ll let the video do the talking. Although, I will say the video doesn’t truly do it justice either. I mean, when you see a roof in a parking lot, and you look around and absolutely cannot determine where it came from, that’s a pretty big deal.

By the time we got down there, there were already scores of emergency personnel doing their thing. It was quite obvious that there was really no help we could offer. We were just two members of the looky-loo parade. We headed back to the house.

Hannah and Eric left. They had to get back on the road. They called us on the way out of town and let us know it was extremely difficult getting to the Interstate, which is normally just a three-minute straight shot from our house, due to downed trees and sight-seer traffic.

We nestled in and prepared for a night without power. I mentioned in a previous entry about how I would never forget the sound of that tornado. There is another soundscape I will never forget. When the power goes out, your house goes silent. You never realize how much noise your house makes until the power is out. So on that silence, layer in the sounds of media and police helicopters. On top of that, throw in the occasional emergency vehicle siren. There were also distant voices chattering, hollering, crying. Underneath all of it was a steady drone of chainsaws, working working working to clear the road of downed trees. On two occasions that first night, I heard gunfire as well. The second night, a neighbor across the street had a generator running, powering bright work lights which were strung up around her house. It was the only beacon of light on our dark street. The loud hum of the generator was a welcome sound. We had heard tell already of looting and robberies. Most of those were taking place in the more damaged area to the south, but we were still somewhat worried. In fact, the first night in which there had been no generated light from the neighbor and the street was completely dark, someone had gone through our yard. Both our gates were hanging open in the morning. Did that person have a weapon? Did that person gaze into our windows while we were sleeping? Or did they simply want a shortcut to the alley? We didn’t know. But it did cause the occasional shudder when we thought about it. I kept my axe handy just in case. Luckily, there was no occasion to wield it.

The day after the tornado, there was a police blockade set up on Dowling and checkpoints to get in and out. They told us if we left the area, there was no guarantee we’d get back in due to gas leaks in the area. We took our chances. I went to class. Afterward, we sat outside a Starbucks and took advantage of their free wi-fi in order to check up on the latest news. When we were done with that, there was nothing left to do but go back home and camp out. We decided to grill a bunch of the stuff that was beginning to thaw in our freezer. We ate well that night. The second night was quieter and we got word that power was supposed to come back on Wednesday.


One thing that really struck me was how little people in other parts of the city seemed to know what had happened in North Minneapolis. To us and our neighbors, it was huge. But many (or most) of the students and teachers from my school didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned it. I was late for my first class due to it taking so long to wind our way through the maze of roads that weren’t blocked by trees and to get through the police checkpoint. When I explained it to my instructor, his face went blank, as if he didn’t know whether I was a bad liar or whether he had slept through the apocalypse.

Even so, the parade of looky-loos continued in North Minneapolis.

More to come.

Categories: Life, Weather