Thursday marks one year since deadly EF-3 tornado caused extensive damage in Polk Co.

"I get a little nervous if there’s any high winds, or anything like that," said Ashley Dreahn, a resident in Onalaska. "We weren’t supposed to get hit by a tornado that day."

Cellphone video shared publicly on Facebook showed the devastating storm on April 22, 2020. The tornado killed three people, injured dozens more, and damaged an estimated 600 homes in Polk County.

"It’s been rough," said Henry Smith. "I had to build a new house."

Smith’s home was destroyed by the large twister. For the last year, the 73-year-old has been living in an RV while rebuilding his home.

"We just moved out of this trailer a couple of weeks ago," said Smith. "This camping trip has been rough. Not being able to just kick back and relax."


Debris is still noticeable throughout Onalaska. Some damaged homes sit abandoned, while trees remain split in half.

"Unfortunately, some people did [just leave]," said Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy. "They said, you know, I’m 75 years-old, I don’t want to rebuild. I want to move closer to my children, so they moved out of the area."

Nina Acevedo, and her son Keagen, were severely injured by the twister.

As the storm approached, they took shelter in their home near Lake Livingston with their loved ones, Taylor Holbert and Brooke Ivey. The tornado’s roughly 140 mph winds destroyed their home, and killed Holbert and Ivey.

"You don’t know what could happen at any time," said Acevedo. "The hardest part for me, is seeing what Keagen is going through and missing Taylor and Brooke.

Keagen, a 13-year-old, spent weeks recovering in a hospital. Recently, the teen learned from doctors that his injured leg needs to be amputated.

"It’s been pretty hard," said Keagen. "I had to think about it a lot. A couple of months. Then, I made the choice."


"[Keagen] going to the doctor and stuff, it’s still resulting from the tornado," said Acevedo. "It’s constant."

Much of the town continues to rebuild. If you’d like to help the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department, they’re holding an BBQ and Auction Saturday starting at noon.

"What’s next is to just keep living our country lives, and keep helping each other as we need it, and keep being the town that we are," said Dreahn.