Linwood tornado devastates decades-old greenhouse

(WIBW/Marleah Campbell)
(WIBW/Marleah Campbell)(WIBW)
Published: May. 29, 2019 at 7:02 PM CDT
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Tuesday evening, ripping through buildings in its path.

“It’s been just devastating,” Mark Illausky, owner of Free State Growers said.

Free State Growers has stood in Linwood since the 1970s. On Wednesday, the 10 acres of greenhouse is largely rubble.

“We were at dinner and watched the tornado go through on the television and they said it hit Linwood pretty hard, I thought I’d better come out,” Tom Franchett, general manager of Free State Growers, said. “So I came out about a half hour after the storm came through and found this.”

Tuesday’s tornado caused around 3 million dollars of structural damage alone, leveling over ninety percent of the property.

“It’s unbelievable the outpouring of support we’ve had from the community, and people have just contacted me from all over the country and reached out to all of us, just to help out any way they can,” Illausky said.

Just down the road, Aaron McLaren and his family weren’t home at the time of the tornado.

“It’s been kind of a crazy thing to come and see the destruction and how much damage actually had happened, not only to our house, but to the general community,” McLaren said.

Though fortunately his family is unharmed, their house – and most of their belongings — are completely lost.

“Cards that me and my wife have given to each other, we’ve given to the kids for their birthday, that can’t be replaced, and obviously they’re associated with that moment in time,” McLaren said. “I think that’s the toughest thing, but us having each other and knowing that there will be a plan that will formulate, and it’s just going to take time, just like anything else in life. Sometimes you just have to take a little bit of time and let things get back on track.”

One day after the devastation hit, getting back on track is the plan for the greenhouse, too.

“We want to rebuild, because we have a lot of good employees that we want to take care of and they want to take care of us,” Illausky said.

“We’re meeting with greenhouse builders tomorrow, and see how fast we get back in business,” Franchett said.

Franchett said the first step will be clearing away the nine acres of rubble, and they hope to start rebuilding the greenhouse one month from now.