May 6, 1965 Tornado
The worst tornadoes in Twin Cities history occurred on May 6, 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the seven-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 were injured. Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM Radio with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather.
Chanhassen was fortunate that night. A tornado touched down at 6:27 pm near Lake Susan and traveled 7 miles on the ground north to Deephaven. It was rated F4, but no one was injured or killed. Other areas of the Twin Cities were not as fortunate. Read more about it.
Memories from Residents
The following is an excerpt from Chanhassen: A Centennial History Book. If you find this story interesting, you may wish to purchase a copy of the history book at City Hall for $10.
Where were you on the evening of May 6, 1965? Herb Bloomberg remembers standing at the window when it looked as if the water from Lotus Lake had taken to the air. He called Adolph Tessness. Tessness had worse luck. His house was gone.
Joe Hedtke and Tom O'Laughlin
At Jerry's Bar, Joe Hedtke, the bartender, was coming in for the evening shift when he spotted the funnel cloud. He ran in the door, shouting, "Everyone downstairs! There's a tornado coming!" Tom O'Laughlin, the daytime bartender said, 'When I saw Joe running downstairs, I figured he was serious and dashed after him." The customers grabbed their beers and ran to the basement. It missed the bar but all the lights were out. Across the street the tornado ripped through Jerry Schlenk's gas station, ripping out the rear wall. Six homes were destroyed and ten more were severely damaged. Much of the Frontier Center was destroyed with lumber strewn like Pick-Up-Sticks.
Gwen Pearson remembered, "I cooked a chicken dinner and was getting ready to put it on the table when it started hailing outside, big as golf balls. After it stopped, the children wanted to go out and collect them. While we were out in the yard, I saw these big black clouds in the south, then saw the funnel cloud. I hurried the children into the southwest corner of the basement and then waited. Then we heard it. It was a very loud roar and we could hear glass flying upstairs. The basement windows blew out above us. Then it was quiet again. We went upstairs and all we saw was blue sky. The piano was almost ready to fall out of the house and there was a lawn chair way up in a tree. It was real freakish. The goldfish were still swimming around in the bowl back there in the southwest corner bedroom--the only room in the house that wasn't damaged."
Rita Rojina was downstairs ironing. "You could see it over the trees. It circled and was hitting Lotus Lake and then jumping over to Christmas Lake. I spent the next three hours in the basement under a table."
A block away, Ron Roeser heard his children shouting. "The kids were outside and they said something. I could hear this in the distance and I was looking right out this window. There were sparks flying and there was dirt flying and I was watching the Mileage Station blow away. We ran outside and we could hear this roaring and see this huge black cloud moving towards Lotus Lake. It took Adolph's house out completely. The National Guard came out and blocked off streets."
It hit the Klingelhutz farm south of town. Roeser recalled, "They looked out the window and it was pitch black and he got all of the kids in the basement and they heard this tremendous crash and part of the barn flew into the house and kicked the cupboards just off the wall. They had a really close call."
Miraculously, no one was seriously injured.
If you have stories or photos about this event, please contact City Hall at 952-227-1100. We would welcome the opportunity to speak to you and scan your photos. View pictures in our photo gallery.