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Alpena couple gets ready to return to farm hit by June 18 tornado

Ronny Kopfmann, left, and Bob Jensen, both of rural Alpena, talk Saturday about an aerial photo of Kopfmann's farm taken before it was destroyed in a June 18 tornado. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

ALPENA -- There are still piles of debris at Ronny and Linda Kopfmann's farm south of Alpena, reminders of the tornado that tore through the area nearly two months ago.

In the middle of it all, there's a new house, which arrived on the back of a truck from Watertown on Aug. 1. It's still empty now, but in a few weeks Ronny and Linda plan to move in, and return for good to the farm they left in the aftermath of the June 18 tornado that destroyed their old home.

In an interview Saturday with The Daily Republic, Ronny and Linda said they were left shaken by the experience of losing their home in the tornado.

"For two days, I couldn't shut my eyes," Ronny said. "Every time I closed my eyes, I'd see everything that was gone."

Now, Ronny and Linda are focused on rebuilding what they lost as fast as they can.

"I just didn't know if I could keep going after I lost it all," he said. "Now, I can't stop trying to get it all back."

They got a little help on Saturday, when family and friends gathered at the community center in Alpena to visit with the couple and give gifts to help them furnish their new home.

Linda Schacht, of Alpena, helped organize the event and said she has known Ronny and Linda for many years, and taught their children in school.

"They've taken me in as part of their family, so I just wanted to do something to help them out," she said.

Ronny and Linda were the only two people seriously injured by the tornadoes that swept through the area that night. Ronny suffered injuries to his left hand and leg, and Linda suffered a cut to her head that required nine stitches. Both have recovered, though Ronny still has tingling in his arm.

The tornado that hit Ronny and Linda's farm was separate from -- and stronger than -- the tornado that hit Wessington Springs that same night. According to the National Weather Service, the path of the tornado that hit the couple's farm was nearly 12 miles long and a half mile wide, with wind speeds as high as 170 mph. It was rated an EF-4, the second most severe rating on a scale from EF-0, the lowest rating, to EF-5, the highest rating.

"It was amazing we got out of there no more beat up than we did," Ronny said.

In the basement of the couple's new home, there's a concrete bunker with a steel door and a ceiling a foot thick, which Ronny has taken to calling the "bomb shelter."

"If you ever sat under a tornado and listened to what we did, you would have a bomb shelter too," he said.

Ronny and Linda have been staying in a friend's guest house in Alpena since the tornado. Though both are ready to move into their new home, they admit it won't feel like the home they left.

"I have mixed feelings," Ronny said. "It looks like it doesn't belong there."

Still, both are looking forward to finally being able to stay at their farm again.

"I like it out there," Linda said. "It's peaceful."