Photograph of a destroyed church after the St. Peter Tornado.

Church Destruction

A church in St. Peter destroyed by the tornado.

Photograph of volunteers clearing debris from a street in St. Peter.

Volunteers

Volunteers clearing debris after the St. Peter Tornado.

St. Peter Tornado, 1998

On March 29, 1998, a tornado swept through southern Minnesota, devastating the town of St. Peter. Residents had only about ten minutes to take shelter once they heard the warning sirens just after 5:00 p.m. Propelled by 150-mile-an-hour winds, the tornado cut a mile-wide swath through the town of 10,000, causing scores of injuries and one fatality when a young boy was swept out of his family's car. In terms of its severity, the St. Peter tornado ranks with other destructive storms including those that tore through the Twin Cities metro area in 1965 and again in 1981.

Photograph of flour mills and grain elevators overlooking Red Wing’s crowded riverfront, c. 1900.

Red Wing riverfront scene

Flour mills and grain elevators overlook Red Wing’s crowded riverfront, c.1900.

Late 1860s photograph showing barges along Red Wing's Mississippi River waterfront awaiting wheat for shipment to customers downriver.

Red Wing

This late 1860s photograph shows barges along Red Wing's Mississippi River waterfront awaiting wheat for shipment to customers downriver.

Black and white photograph of Cannon Falls firefighters posing in front of their headquarters.

Cannon Falls firefighters.

Cannon Falls' citizens organized a defense against further fire following the 1887 disaster, the community's second devastating blaze. Local firefighters pose in front of their headquarters.

Black and white photograph of Van Campen store and Scofield's drug store, 1883.

Van Campen store (left) and Scolfield's drug store (right), 1883.

Van Campen store, left, and Scofield's drug store, right, shown in 1883, a year before the first large Cannon Falls fire. The Van Campen building and the business next door, burned during the 1884 conflagration. The stone Scofield structure survived.

Stereoscopic card of business buildings in Cannon Falls, c. 1880s.

Business buildings in Cannon Falls, c. 1880s.

Business buildings line this Cannon Falls street in the early 1880s. Such wood frame structures, often clustered together, proved susceptible to fire.

Black and white photograph of destruction caused by the 1887 fire in Cannon Falls.

Destruction caused by 1887 fire in Cannon Falls.

This view, looking north on Fourth Street shows Cannon Falls in the aftermath of the 1887 fire. The Yale House is at the top left. First National Bank vault is the small white structure left of center. A livery stable and the home are behind the vault.

Cannon Falls Fires, May 20, 1887

Buildings along the main streets of Minnesota's earliest communities were particularly vulnerable to fire. Even small blazes could grow quickly and incinerate wood-frame structures in densely packed business districts. The 1880s fires in Cannon Falls serve as an example.

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