By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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POPLAR GROVE — Less than a year into his service as a volunteer firefighter, Ryan Lindberg responded to what could be a once-in-a-career level tragedy.
The North Boone Fire District 3 firefighter was part of a massive multiagency response to a chaotic scene at The Apollo Theatre on Friday in downtown Belvidere, where an EF-1 tornado tore a hole through the roof and left some patrons of a death metal concert trapped beneath the debris.
He aided in the rescue and triage efforts for a couple hours, describing the night as “a blur.”
His night was just beginning.
Related: ‘We’re all rooting for The Apollo’: Officials optimistic the historic Belvidere structure can be saved
Lindberg, whose family also runs the Pumpkin Patch and farms wheat, corn and beans, returned later that night to find the family farm devastated by a separate tornado that ripped through the rural area about 9 miles north of The Apollo.
“We just literally left one thing to come to here,” he said. “It was just like, God, now what?”
The tornado missed the Pumpkin Patch, where he lives with his wife, Amber, and their 10- and 8-year-old children. But on the family farm just east, the tornado wiped out grain bins, wrecked sheds, obliterated the top half of a silo, knocked out power and uprooted roughly 30 large trees.
A storage bin that can house 80,000 to 85,000 bushels of corn was destroyed, and a pipeline serving the corn dryer was sliced in half and pouring natural gas into the air until it was shut off.
“It just sounded like a train howling,” Lindberg said of the gas line.
Lindberg and his grandfather, Don Lindberg, who lives on the property that was struck, estimate the total damages may be in the sum of about $1 million.
They’re working to determine how to best pick up the pieces after the destruction, but they’re also feeling thankful that the tornado missed their homes.
It didn’t miss by much.
There are two homes on the property that was struck. Lindberg’s grandparents Don and Karen live in one home. His mother, Cheryl, who he works with to run the Pumpkin Patch, lives in the other house.
The tornado swept away a children’s playset that was just about 30 or so feet from Cheryl’s home, and it uprooted pine trees just about 100 feet from Don and Karen’s house.
“It went right through the two houses,” said Kathy Lindberg, Don and Karen’s daughter. “There’s a lane that goes all the way to the back, and you can see all the debris was strewn into the fields out in back.”
Karen and Don Lindberg hunkered down in their home when they got warning of a possible tornado. They heard hail hit the house, but didn’t realize the severity of the storm until later that evening.
“We never heard anything other than pellets on our window,” Karen Lindberg said.
The tornado that went through their farm is one of 18 the National Weather Service has confirmed in northern Illinois and northwest Indiana as of Tuesday morning. That includes the tornadoes in Machesney Park and downtown Belvidere.
At the Lindberg farm, the tornado also plucked a more than century-old oak tree out of the ground. A machine shed just west of the house was rocked off its foundation.
“It’s really quite unbelievable to see how close we are,” Karen Lindberg said. “We’re devastated that happened, but God saved us.”