From Cookbooks to Tornado Memoir: Northside Survivor Tells All in “Twisted”

A year after the North Minneapolis tornado that caused $150,000 worth of damage to Marie and Michael Porter’s home, Marie found a unique way to deal with the trauma and tell her story. She published a book called Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir.

“After the tornado I wasn’t able to find accounts of anyone who had been through a tornado and what they’d experienced along the way,” said Marie Porter. “I looked for some sort of account of what people had gone through. Tornados don’t really come with an instruction manual of any kind, so that inspired me to write it. The book is the full story of what has happened from the day of the tornado until now: the rebuild, the cleanup, how our friends came together for us, and every bit of crap the city put us through. It’s been a long year.”

When the Porters bought a house with a hot tub in the bedroom in March 2011 for just $45,000, they thought they’d hit the jackpot. Two months later, the north Minneapolis tornado uprooted the big walnut tree in their backyard and threw it into the house, lifted the roof and dropped it back down, and sent three of the neighbor’s trees through the walls like spears. One tree landed in the cats’ litter box. The Porters hadn’t even finished moving in when the storm struck.

Tornado just the beginning of the nightmare.
On Sunday, May 22, Marie, a cookbook author and native of Winnipeg, Canada, and Michael, a technician at Boston Scientific, were in nearby Brooklyn Park when they received a call from their alarm company that there was reportedly a fire in their basement. Worried about the four cats, they hurried home only to realize that it wasn’t a fire, but a tornado that had descended on their neighborhood. They were able to drive within three blocks of their house, then sprinted the rest, scrambling over downed trees, branches, and power lines.

And that was only the beginning of the nightmare.

“The city has been so blazingly incompetent, it’s like they’re working against progress in north Minneapolis,” says Marie. “I’ve had to fight with them repeatedly.”

“It’s been a slap in the face to us every day that we have to watch the city and state put so much effort into a football stadium. Yet North gets completely ignored.”

The city held a volunteer day soon after the storm and moved all of the debris on the Porters’ property to the backyard. But they never came back to remove it entirely. The couple did that themselves.

Since they had moved into the house only two months prior, not all of the inspections were complete. The railings on the deck, for example, weren’t up to code. Two weeks after the tornado, the Porters received a letter from the city stating that they had until the end of the month to bring the railings into compliance “or face civil or criminal charges.” The only problem was that the tornado had blown away the entire deck.

“It was an automatic letter, claiming they’d sent an inspector to our home, which they hadn’t,” recalls Marie, seething. “This was two weeks after the tornado, and they’re worried about deck railings. No one thought to put a stop to those notices.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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