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On Friday evening, May 21, a tornado moved along the south side of Rolfe. The storm damaged  the golf course, cemeteries, and farms from three miles southwest of town to four miles east of town. It then sacked the town of Bradgate. More than a dozen rural Rolfe families sustained damages to their homes and/or farm buildings. In some cases, the damage was minor. In other cases, buildings were totalled.

We intend to provide photos and written material about the storm in the Rolfe area, the damage it caused, and the follow up efforts to rebuild facilities and lives. Check back often to see what's new in this section. And if you have photos or comments, please send them to us to post. Thanks.

This map joins portions of the directories for Roosevelt and Garfield Townships that were in the 2003 Plat Book for Pocahontas County. The red areas incurred storm damage. You can click on the map for a larger version.

Reports and Photos by Helen D. Gunderson, RHS Web Site Editor

10 pm Friday, May 21, 2004  Preliminary report of storm activity written from Gilbert, based on phone calls and information from the Internet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004  Follow-up to a three-day weekend in the Rolfe area in which Helen photographed the aftermath of the tornado and the cleanup effort.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004  Unofficial, preliminary summary of damage done at various rural Rolfe locations.

Other Reports

May 25, 2004  An email from Jennifer Burns Trenary about damage to their farm home and a link to her web site of photos of the tornado and cleanup process.

James Roland's article about the Rolfe tornado may be found at:

Video Clips

Scott Devereaux, a Pocahontas County Deputy Sheriff, sent us two video clips of the tornado. They are in MPEG format, and links to them are posted below. Scott says that he was in Havelock when the Rolfe fire department first reported funnel clouds. He then headed for Rolfe and says that when he came out of the rain, he was a mile south of Rolfe. Just then, the tornado touched down west of the golf course, across the road from his location. He followed the storm as it headed east. He had a video camera mounted in the front of the patrol car. The first clip is just west of the cemeteries. The white crosses marking the railroad crossing are clearly visible. The second clip is further east along the same road.  clip A     clip B

We asked Scott what was going through his mind. He said, "I really do not know what was going through my mind at that time. I knew I needed to check houses for injured people, and the first one I came by was the Behrendsens. I checked on them, called for an ambulance, and then went to find others in the area." Thanks for your diligent work, Scott, and for the video clips.

Gunderson farm
Reigelsberger farm
Dahl corn crib
Brinkman hog house
Clinton-Garfield Cemetery
Roland farm
Trenary farm
Behrendsen farm

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service office in Des Moines has an interesting web site. We downloaded two PDF files that were particularly interesting.

Survey of damage done by the tornado that went through the rural Rolfe area and Bradgate. Contains some photos of the damage, including an aerial photo of Mick and Sue Reigelsberger's farm.

News release summarizing Iowa's severe weather from May 21-24, 2004, and comparing that to annual historical statistice for the state.

How to Help

by Helen D. Gunderson
May 24, 2004

Between talking to civic leaders such as LaDonna Marine and Shelly Stumpf at the Rolfe fire department on the evening after the tornado and Bill Winkleblack today, I get the impression that the best way many of you readers can help is to send money. There is a huge food bill that was rung up by volunteer food preparers who got their supplies at Bill's Foodland Grocery in Rolfe. It will need to be paid. The cemetery associations and golf club will need funds for restoration. The ministerial association, which consists of all the churches in town, has a history of distributing funds to people in need and could use support. The fire department and ambulance crew can also use funds.

So here is what sounds like the best advice for now. If we get new advice, we will post it.

Write a check to the Rolfe State Bank. Mail it to the bank in care of Bill Winkleblack (RHS class of 1972). If you don't know Bill, he has a long history of service to the Rolfe community, has been a leader of both the Rolfe Betterment Incorporated and the Rolfe Enrichment Committee, and is a vice president of the bank.

You can designate how you want you donation to be used. For instance, you could indicate to use the funds where they are most needed. Or you can designate them to go to a specific organization or purpose. For instance, you could designate the ministerial association as the recipient or indicate that you want the money to help victims rebuild their homes.

Bill will convert your gift into a bank draft and give it to your designated recipient. He will also arrange for you to get a letter of acknowledgement. If you wish, you could call or email Bill prior to sending your check. He would be happy to answer questions, respond to suggestions, and generally facilitate the process of channeling funds to help in the aftermath of the tornado. If you wish, you could also contact city hall. Although the city hall staff does not channel funds, they would know how to help you make connections in your pursuit of helping the cause.

Thank you for whatever way you find to help those people affected by the recent tornado and other natural disasters.

Bill Winkleblack, Vice President
Rolfe State Bank
Telephone: 712-848-3480
Address: 316 Garfield; Rolfe, Iowa, 50581
E-mail address:

Tom Smith, City Administrator/Clerk
Janice Young, Deputy City Clerk
City of Rolfe
Telephone: 712-848-3124
FAX (712)848-3128
Address: 319 Garfield; Rolfe, Iowa, 50581
E-mail address:

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