By Tim Huether
As a tornado stormed through the Allen area Wednesday evening, 34 church group members, mostly youth, took shelter in the Pass Creek Church of God, praying for the best.
Their prayers were answered as a tornado ripped the roof from a structure to the left of their building and tossed a heavy playground metal bus over the top of a swing and to the right, leaving them untouched, at least physically.
According to Shelly Bentley, minister for the Church of God, the kids have been wonderful through a difficult ordeal.
“These kids are great,” said Bentley. “An hour and a half after it happened, they were gathered together and singing, How Great Thou Art.”
The youth are one of the first of 12 groups that make a trek to the Church each summer, helping put on bible studies and other work in the area. Most are from Lingle, Wyo., and a few were from Nebraska.
Shelly and her husband, Barry, are the ministers for the church.
At about 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, a tornado made its way in an apparent southeastern direction, hitting just on the southern edge of Allen, destroying a couple of homes, including the house of Kermit Salway. Many other homes were damaged, mainly to the roofs, and two trailer houses that were no longer occupied were picked up and deposited to an unknown location as of Wednesday morning.
Bentley said they lost power Tuesday night, but Lacreek Electric was on it fast and had it back up in a hurry.
The Pass Creek Church had several buildings badly damaged and some playground equipment was damaged and destroyed.
They lost a roof that covered two trailer houses, a roof over a storage facility and had a 2x6 board get shoved into the roof of their home. A large heavy metal playground bus that was cemented into the ground was ripped up, tossed on and over a swing set and thrown about 40 yards.
Through all the destruction and devastation, nobody was injured. Search and rescue units from all across the area, including Martin, Bennett County and the Oglala Sioux Tribe were out in full force immediately after the storm to help assist those in need.
There was a report of someone hearing a call for help down a deep draw near the home of Carol Janis, but nobody was found and everyone in the area was accounted for so the search was stopped. Janis’ home was southeast of the Pass Creek Church and received roof and siding damage.
Wednesday morning, cleanup crews, insurance agents, the Red Cross, tribal departments and regional media were converging on the scene.
The National Weather service confirmed an EF-1 tornado hit the area.
Bentley said things look pretty bad, but they are thankful nobody was injured and they have insurance.
“I think we’re all pretty glad we didn’t see it,” said Bentley.