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Wessington Springs relief fund nears $80K; committee to distribute money to tornado victims

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WESSINGTON SPRINGS, South Dakota — A relief fund set up to help residents of tornado-ravaged Wessington Springs has raised nearly $80,000 in the two weeks since the June 18 twister.

Residents of the southeastern South Dakota community of about 850 people say they're grateful for the help.

"It's surpassing anything that we even knew existed out there," Mayor Melissa Mebius said. "Until you've been faced with a disaster like this, I don't think you truly know what kind of people are out there and the resources that are available."

All of the money in the relief fund will go directly to homeowners, according to Mebius. A committee has been formed to determine how the money will be distributed.

"That way, those who are in the most need are getting the recovery help that they need," the mayor said.

The tornado was on the ground for about 40 minutes and had peak winds of 127 mph, according to the National Weather Service. It destroyed 15 homes and damaged another 44, displacing nearly 80 people.

Resident John Niemeyer, who has been able to move back into his home, said it will be a while before the town returns to normal. However, "people are starting to smile again," he said.

Cash donations to the town can be dropped off at American Bank & Trust locations in Wessington Springs, Alpena, Huron, Wolsey, Miller, Pierre, Mellette and De Smet.

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