It was a warm summer evening in Hortonville, Wis. The overnight forecast called for scattered thunderstorms.
Around midnight, member Danielle S. awoke to fierce winds and flashes of lightning. She began to shut windows throughout the family’s farmhouse. The winds grew stronger.
Like a scene straight out of “The Wizard of Oz,” Danielle watched from her kitchen window as their grill came unbolted from the front porch and blew away. Seconds later a tree limb crashed down on her husband’s truck parked in the driveway.
Danielle ran to get her husband and 6-year-old daughter to the basement as a thick, gray fog descended upon the house.
What hit the farm on Aug. 7, 2013, was a series of tornadoes, part of a rare storm complex called a quasi-linear convective system. QLCS tornadoes evolve rapidly and move at incredibly high speeds.
In less than an hour, six tornadoes raced across east-central Wisconsin, damaging hundreds of homes, businesses, power lines and trees. The family’s farm – a 12.62-acre horse training and breeding facility – was demolished in all of five minutes.
“Our indoor arena was completely torn apart,” says Danielle. “We found pieces of it almost a mile away.”
The tornadoes also took out an outdoor arena, a cinder-block barn and miles of oak fencing. They lost one horse, a mare that got wrapped up in metal debris and was blown nearly 800 feet.
When all was said and done, the tornadoes caused more than $250,000 worth of damage to Danielle and Randy’s farm and business.
“We’d put all our money, sweat and tears into this place – all of it gone,” says Danielle.
Help when they needed it most
Modern Woodmen’s Fraternal Aid Fund offers financial assistance in the form of premium payments for members who are victims of disasters, such as fires, floods, storms or serious health problems. The fund paid more than $150,000 of members’ premiums in 2013.
Their Modern Woodmen representative, John Wiesner, encouraged them to apply for fraternal aid and helped them complete the paperwork. Both Danielle and Randy’s life insurance premiums were paid by Modern Woodmen for three months following the tornadoes.
“We had to send the horses back to our clients while we rebuild,” explains Danielle, “so it’s had a huge impact on our business.”
“It was so nice to get that relief from Modern Woodmen,” she adds. “Every bit helps.”