Photo by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine BuxcelPhoto by Elaine Buxcel

The Sun Still Shines

If you have ever doubted the strength of a prairie girl, you need to get acquainted with Elaine Noldner Buxcel.
When the dangerous weather warning came the night of June 12, 2022, there was no time to try to outrun it. Having no basement to run to, Elaine dragged a chair into the hallway of her single-story ranch house, seated herself, covered her legs with a heavy blanket and clung to a pillow with plans to use it to protect her face and head.
Then came the screaming roar of maddened winds, twisting, snatching, creating unbelievable destruction, and accompanied by drenching rain. 
When the storm finally passed, Elaine found two to three inches of rainwater all over the floors of her home. The only light in the darkness was her cell phone, which she had clutched through the storm. After a long, long forty minutes or so, a knock came at her door.
“I was never so glad to hear that knock,” she says. Chris Venard, Blain Hauptman and Chauncey Hauptman were the Search and Rescue team that brought light into Elaine’s dark night. Shortly before midnight she was safely in Murdo at the home of her daughter Tonia. She would not know until the days following that neighbors’ places to the east had also been hit, including Bob Kinsley, Troy and Jody Iversen and Tim and Alyssa Kinsley as well as many places west of her home.
“I still feel a bit numb when I think of that storm, but it’s getting better,” she says.
Daylight Monday morning back at the ranch revealed the damage done by the F1 tornado and the downpour of rain. The horrible noise Elaine had heard was when the patio doors on the west side of the house and the south part of the roof were torn away. Then the wind sucked items out of the house or simply moved them from room to room, all the while throwing wet insulation all over everything.
“The coats,” Elaine shakes her head as she recalls how they were snatched out of the closet. “One was thrown into the storage room, one was in the barn, another in the pasture and a fourth hanging in the house rafters.” A picture window was covered by so much insulation, she could not see out of it.
Soon Paul Erikson arrived with Bub Baker’s loader and scoop. He dug a big hole away from the house and began to haul and dump stuff into it that could never be used again: an extra refrigerator that was rendered useless when its doors were jerked out of line, couches and easy chairs, along with carpets and clothing, so filled with insulation and water damage, they were useless. Even her major appliances had to be hauled to the hole along with trees and parts of trees torn down by the unforgiving storm.
“My pickup had all the windows broken out except the front one. My tractor had all the windows broken out except the back one. And they were setting side by side.” Elaine shakes her head in disbelief at the variances of the winds.
Two small steel granaries were involved. One lost its roof and sustained a cave-in on one side, but the other stood firm, likely because it was full of grain. Another, belonging to a neighbor, is setting in the dam east of Elaine’s place. A wind charger at the neighbor’s place less than half a mile from Elaine, tipped over against the house roof and there was also damage to a large shed there.
Elaine’s mailbox survived being hit by a tree, but now sets at a crazy angle.
Matt Kinsley came Tuesday and patched Elaine’s house roof to keep out any further rain.
Although the first opinions had been that the house was a total loss and would be pushed in the hole to be burned when snow lessens the concern of a prairie fire, Elaine is already planning to reconstructt the home she and her late husband, Clifford, had built back in 1979.
“I’m a country girl,” she smiles “I am ready to move back to my place. My cousin is coming in to make my home a great place to live in again. He does that kind of work and he is good at it. My kids and grandkids and friends will help.” She closes the photo album that depicts the damage a twister can do, smiles, shrugs and goes off to her job as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels.

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
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