Tornado survivor’s journey to answers nearly 50 years later
Original air date: February 26, 2021
On August 6th, 1969, an F-4 tornado ripped through northern Minnesota and wreaked havoc from nearly 38 miles impacting parts of Crow Wing County, Cass County, and Aitkin County. In that path of destruction was Roosevelt Lake in Outing where Sue Dugan Moline and her family were on vacation.
“There were 17 of us in the cabin at the time, and it was like somebody pulled the rug out from under us. All of a sudden we’re on the floor and we’re moving,” Moline said.
The entire cabin was swept up and carried into the lake.
“And then it was, be under water, get a gasp of air, be under water, you just knew you were gonna die,” Moline said, “Just crazy waves, debris still flying through the air, and I didn’t see another living person.”
Disoriented and scared, Moline and the other survivors began making sense of the scene.
“We had nothing left. The cabin was gone, everything, right off the foundation. The cars, the camping trailer, it blew them all into the lake,” Moline said.
12 people were killed in the Outing tornado, including 7 of Moline’s friends and family. She lost her 62 year-old grandma, Edith Dugan, her 19 year-old sister Becky, and her 5 year-old cousin Sharon.
Also killed were 13 year-old Paul Brokke, 50 year-old Evy Carlson, and her parents, 80 year-old Rev. Arthur Olson and 79 year-old Minnie Olson. Minnie would have had her 80th birthday the next day, August 7th.
“We came home to Bloomington the next day, and once the bodies were found, we had a 7 casket funeral on Monday, August 11th,” Moline said, “And then everybody went home and we kind of never talked about it.”
Moline was 17 at the time. Decades passed, and her curiosity gradually grew. A few years ago, she began seeking answers by interviewing fellow survivors.
Moline said, “I started to realize that there was an awful lot of information I’d never heard and I didn’t know. And so, I decided I would record my questions with everybody who was still living who had been there.”
Moline put out a call to eyewitnesses in local newspapers, interviewed local authorities, and dissected the tornado outbreak with meteorologists at the National Weather Service.
“It was like filling in a big puzzle and I had a couple pieces, I thought I remembered it, and then all of a sudden the story grew,” Moline said.
She put everything she learned into a book, “The Lake Turned Upside Down,” and it got her family talking.
“I think it was therapeutic for everybody to just talk to somebody who shared the experience and then be able to tell your story,” Moline said.
Her cousin Shane confronted survivor’s guilt that had been dormant for nearly 50 years. He shared this with Moline while with his mother who was shocked to hear what he had been carrying with him all this time.
“He said, ‘Mom, you told me to watch out for my sister that day,’” Moline said, “For years, he dealt with that, he hadn’t taken care of his little sister.”
“I thought if for no other reason I’m doing this, I’m glad I did it for that reason,” Moline said.
“The Lake Turned Upside Down” is available on Amazon and at duganbooks.com