Weather Forecast


Tornado victims pledge to rebuild

On Tuesday afternoon, Joy and Cory Mohling sit on a landing where their garage and home once stood in Wessington Springs. Mohlings' home was destroyed by the tornado that ripped through Wessington Springs last week. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Cory and Joy Mohling were enjoying a summer evening outside the house they moved into last November, when they got the call to take cover.

They were having a barbecue with their four children, twin 11-year-olds Cale and Cade, 7 year-old Logan and 5-year-old Brooke. The table was set and the food had just finished cooking on the grill when Cory's sister called to tell him a tornado was headed to Wessington Springs. Shortly after the phone call, the sirens starting wailing and Cory immediately got his family in the basement.

He then ran across the street to his grandmother's house to make sure she was safely in her basement before he rushed back to his house. Peering out of his living room window, Cory could see the twister in between two houses down the street, barreling toward him and his family.

"I wasn't too worried, until I saw the tornado; we've had to take cover before," Cory said. "We were huddled in the corner of the basement, and the next thing you know, the electrical wires and staples are popping out. The electrical box went crashing through the water pipes, so we were getting sprayed with water and insulation and we just waited it out from there."

The couple, who have been married for 13 years, ventured out to see the devastation left in the path of the EF-2 tornado that tore through the southeast portion of Wessington Springs on the evening of June 18. The Mohlings pushed their way through the debris layered on top of the stairs leading out of the basement to what remained of their house, only to see firefighters and first responders.

"The minute it hit our house, you could hear something, and it's all kind of a blur to me," Joy said. "All of a sudden, you could just hear everything banging, pulling and crashing together. I was shaking and the kids were screaming. It was ungodly loud."

The Mohlings may have lost their house, four cars and the majority of their personal belongings inside the house, but said they have kept things in perspective.

"The main things I didn't lose were my children," Joy said. "That's what means the most to me. The other stuff can be replaced."

The Mohlings said there is no doubt in their minds that warnings prior to the twister saved their lives, and many others. The Mohlings also praised the speedy responses of county sheriffs, volunteers, firemen and other emergency personnel in surrounding towns and counties.

"Seemed like they were here in 10 minutes," Joy said. "The hardest part is wanting to thank them all personally, and there is no way to thank them all because I don't know them."

'She is a strong girl'

Less than a week before the tornado, their daughter, Brooke, got back home after enduring a week of testing at a Milwaukee children's hospital for her gastrointestinal tract. Joy said her daughter suffers from various food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies.

"It was a lot of intense testing for a little girl. They put her through the mill and back," Joy said. "It was very tough to go through. I just tried to stay strong for her, but she is a strong girl. And then when she lost it and started to cry, I lost it and started to cry."

Further testing will be needed to determine more on Brooke's condition, and may require the Mohlings to visit a hospital in Denver.

"Everyone has been so gracious in any way possible, between that and the tornado," Cory said. "Everyone has been super."

Plans to rebuild

The Mohlings have had numerous offers from people in the Wessington Springs and Woonsocket communities for places to stay. The children were sent to their grandmother's house in Baltic until the town is cleaned up, allowing the kids some normalcy, Joy said. For now, the Mohlings are taking things one step at a time.

"We've got a place to go, we just haven't moved there yet," Cory said. "There is a family in town that offered us a hunting lodge. People just step up in this community when something happens."

For now, Joy will sort through what remains of the family's belongings that sit in her grandfather's shop in town, as Cory helps around town with the cleanup process. They are waiting to hear back from their insurance company.

Through it all, Joy and Cory will remain positive, they said.

"We'd never leave Wessington Springs. I've lived here my whole life. We're going to build right where we are standing," Cory said as he and Joy stood near the old foundation of what used to be their home.