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Published July 19, 2011, 01:56 PM

Workers escape Wadena, Minn., fairgrounds building blown down in Tuesday morning storm; building first demolished in 2010 tornado

Early morning storm destroys new steel building on Wadena Fairgrounds, still recovering from 2010 tornado

By Brian Hansel and Rachelle Klemme

JR Construction owner Robert Weiher told his three-man crew to “get out of there” Tuesday morning and his orders came in the nick of time.

Weiher’s son, John, left the new steel building being built on the Wadena County Fairgrounds along with Ben and Todd Weidricht just before a storm with winds estimated at 60-70 miles per hour knocked it down.

The building project was only two days away from completion. A forklift was still inside the building and another was just outside the structure when it went down.

The building had a steel roof and bracing was taking place inside in preparation for putting on the steel sidewalls. According to John Weiher, had the sidewalls been up the building would have been able to withstand the storm.

The owner of the Verndale construction company was on a different construction site when the storm hit around 7:30 a.m. He had three of his crews at the site within an hour.

The 60-by-112 foot building was intended for general storage and display.

The building is believed to be a total loss although the concrete floor is intact and should not have to be replaced.

General cleanup work began Tuesday morning but demolition of the building cannot occur until Weiher’s insurance adjustor has an opportunity to assess the damage.

Cleanup, demolition and rebuilding work is expected to go right through the weekend. The $93,000 building was supposed to be ready for the start of the Wadena County Fair which begins July 27.

Materials for the building came from Merickel’s in Wadena. The trusses were manufactured in Pine River.

The Wadena County Fairgrounds was in the path of the June 17, 2010 EF4 tornado that hit Wadena and eight buildings, including a grandstand, were destroyed. Rebuilding efforts have been under way since that time.

Lisa Cochran and Malinda Dexter of the Wadena County Fair Board said the fair would go on as planned, and in fact, organizers are aiming to have the commercial building up again in a week and a day. After all, the newly downed building had its cement poured during the first full week of July, and the frame itself had taken only a few days.

“They had the walls partially built that Friday night, [July] 8,” Cochran said.

Cochran said that it was exciting to see a building getting done and hard to have it destroyed – again. But organizers remain resilient.

“The board’s getting used to just rolling with stuff that happens,” she said. “Nobody panics.”

Dexter and Cochran encouraged people to attend the Wadena County Fair, which also went on last year five weeks after the EF4 tornado destroyed much of the fairgrounds.

“Even with this building catastrophe, it still seems like a more relaxed event to plan than what last year was,” Cochran said.

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