Yes, I am an old enough fogey to remember that day in the Chippewa Valley nearly 25 years ago, even if it has turned quite foggy in my brain. For those of you for whom that date has no meaning, let me fill you in a little.
July 15, 1980 started as a pretty hot day. I remember going to Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls with my parents early in the day. It seems to me that storms were on everyone's lips that day, although I do not recall clearly. I just remember having a 5 year old's sense of forboding tht entire day. I was afraid of storms, but I didn't really like them much, either. The day carried on, with some time spent at Grandma's. As darkness began to set in, it was hastened by a nasty storm blowing in from the west. And then the tornado sirens went off.
Back at that time, we lived in a duplex, and the basement was in the neighbor's side. Mom hauled me into their kitchen, and down into that old, dank, damp basement we went. I hated it down there, I hated it even more this time because my dad and his brother decided that the situtation wasn't all that serious, so they stayed in the garage working on a car. I wanted my dad in that basement, and I suspect my mom did to, but she really wasn't in a position to leave me alone and go up into the storm to get him.
Then the basement door flew open. Down the stairs came my dad, seemingly bounding down three stairs at a time. Following behind was my uncle, who I believe banged his head on the way down. The storm had gotten bad enough that they were frightened into getting below ground. There was talk that we may have to stay down there all night, which just made it all the worse for me. I feel bad for everyone in that basement that day, because I made a bad situation worse by crying almost the entire time.
Late that night we emerged. There was some wind damage in Chippewa Falls. We had trees down in the neighborhood, and I believe the power was out. But we'd been spare in Chippewa Falls. About 8-10 miles away, in the northern reaches of Eau Claire, straightline winds had been devestating. Homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, and it actually took them a little while to determine if it had been a tornado or straightline winds (it was the latter). Residents in the area have some fascinating stories ranging from the winds blowing in to objects being picked up and moved in their yards to light objects which never moved at all. It was one of the worst storms to hit the Chippewa Valley in probably 30 years.
Why do I bring this up? Well, as the 25th anniversary approaches, the Eau Claire Leader Telegram is soliciting stories from people who remember the storm. My story is pedestrian because I was too young to remember the storm in vivid detail. I suspect that there are 1 or 2 BBA readers who do remember this storm, though. If so, I encourage you to check out the details at the L-T and submit your story
. Not only are they interesting to read, but local historians will thank you well after we are all gone.