STAFFORD COUNTY — Roger Dick had the uneasy feeling a Stafford County tornado was on a direct path toward his Stafford County ranch.
His instinct proved right. Soon after a tornado warning was issued and the power went out, his ranch four miles northeast of St. John took a direct strike Saturday night. The upper level of the brick home was destroyed, but the basement closet where the family stayed was a perfect place of safety. The grandchildren were protected by their 66-year-old grandfather with a quilt, pillows and love.
“Once the tornado was on a line between St. John and Hudson, we knew it would be close,” Roger said. “We heard the tornado’s roar and knew it was coming right at us.”
Roger dialed 911 on a cell phone that everyone was safe, but help was needed to get out of the house.
The tornado was rated EF3 with winds as strong as 140 mph that was as wide as 1 1/4 miles. The path measured 28.6 miles until it entered Rice County at the Big Salt Marsh at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge at 944 p.m. The tornado barely missed the cities St. John and Hudson.
Roger and his wife Fran were well prepared. They were caring for their grandchildren Weston Peterson, 4, and Lainey Peterson, 4 months, and had practiced taking cover in the basement. The parents, Brent and Kayla Peterson, are in the process of moving to Stafford County from Louisburg.
“We were listening to the scanner. They spotters know the area and give you great information,” Fran said. “The tornado veered off from St. John and was headed right at us. We hoped we were in a safe place. We were very lucky no one was hurt. Everything is replaceable except someone’s life.”
The Dicks shared their appreciation for neighbors and friends.
“We can’t thank our neighbors and friends enough for the help they’ve provided,” he said. “We got a few valuables out of the house because more rain was coming. The help started coming a half hour after the tornado hit. They showed up Sunday morning and worked all day. You couldn’t drive down the road. They brought their own bulldozers and excavators.”
He estimated damages at several hundred thousand dollars. A guest house, 100-year-old barn and several other buildings were destroyed.
“The people help you out in a small community,” Fran said. “It’s fantastic. They brought all the heavy equipment they needed to get the job done.”
The Dicks operate a cow-calf operation and raise alpacas and quail. Fencing was put up and water and food was delivered to the animals.
Their next challenge is itemizing all the equipment and possessions in each building that was destroyed.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ll figure it out,” Dick said. “We’ll do whatever it takes. After 66 years, I’ve got another life challenge to face.”