ST. PETER, Minn. — Time most certainly did not stand still in St. Peter since an F3 tornado cut a path through the community 20 years ago.
The Mankato Free Press reports that a new exhibit in St. Peter at the Treaty Site History Center created in conjunction with anniversary observances of the tornado and the city's extensive recovery includes an electric wall clock that once hung in a Nicollet County Courthouse hallway. Its hands are stopped at 5:29.
That's when the twister hit and power to the building went out.
Nicollet County Facilities Maintenance Director Douglas Krueger loaned the timepiece to the history center. He was in the courthouse in St. Peter on Sunday, March 29, 1998, when the building was smashed into by a force of nature moving more than 150 mph.
"I was on call that day," he said. "The Sheriff's Department said it was getting really warm in the building, so I went to check on the air conditioner."
After the winds died, Krueger helped deputies assist people nearby the building who had been caught outdoors in the storm.
"While it was a tragedy, what happened that day, most of the town came out pretty good."
He cited the government center as one of the places that's been improved in St. Peter. Part redesign and part new facility, the structure now connects government offices and the courthouse with the sheriff's office and county jail.
The old courthouse building had been in need of updates before it was heavily damaged in 1998.
"Gov. Arne Carlson called right after the tornado and said, 'Don't tear it down. We will help rebuild it,'" Krueger said.
Discussions about the building's future took place on the grounds of the state hospital, where county employees' offices were temporarily housed.
"Half of the personnel were relocated there," Krueger said.
By December 1999, repairs on the original courthouse building were complete.
"We put the building's tower back up just before Thanksgiving that year," Krueger said.
In 2001, county residents celebrated the grand opening of the new government center.
Before-and-after tornado photographs of government buildings, downtown businesses, Gustavus Adolphus College and St. Peter homes are displayed in the history center's exhibit. The public also may view newspaper clippings and recorded television newscasts about recovery efforts.
Fifteen individuals and eight organizations contributed items for display, said Nicollet County Historical Society Executive Director Jessica Becker.
Museum visitors may watch tornado footage from the Sheriff's Department and a resident's home movie of 1998 events. Children may color pages from an activity book designed for youths who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after the storm.
The courthouse clock is exhibited under a glass dome in a floor display case. Alongside is the tiny piece of paper once taped to the back of the clock: "Do not adjust."
Exhibit curators took heed of the cautionary handwritten note; there are no intentions to move the hands marking a time in history when St. Peter was profoundly changed.
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Mankato Free Press.