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.
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.
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.
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.