The day after the tornado, Paderborn offers a picture of the devastation. Roofers repair at record speed. There is dismay everywhere, but also a great willingness to help.

Heiner Wortmann is standing between branches and roof tiles on the street. He looks up at the roofers who are busy repairing a covered roof opposite.

“I’m horrified, I’ve never seen anything like it. The house has just been extensively renovated, now everything is broken again, »said the 82-year-old on Saturday afternoon in an interview with the German Press Agency.

For 60 years he has lived with his wife in the residential area along Riemekestrasse in Paderborn, where the storm hit around 5:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon and left extensive destruction in its wake. Trees uprooted everywhere, roofs that have been torn off, fences that have fallen over, smashed glass – damaged cars with windows that have been poorly taped with foil are parked at the side of the road.

Sweep up shards and branches

“As a little boy, I witnessed how the Arnsberg viaduct was bombed,” says Wortmann, who comes from the Sauerland region. The viaduct was destroyed in March 1945 by Allied air raids shortly before the end of World War II. “Now everything was always so peaceful here. We felt safe. Then to experience something like that up close, that’s terrible, »says Wortmann, who almost bursts into tears.

His house, where he was staying at the time of the storm, is hardly affected. “Just a few roof tiles,” says Wortmann and doesn’t want to complain: “If I were a little younger, I would climb onto the roof myself and repair the damage.” What worries him the most is that almost all of the old trees in the nearby Riemekepark have been destroyed. “Some of them were 150 years old.”

Further down the street, Michael Lohl sweeps up shards and branches in front of his house. His three-year-old grandson Leo plays with the scooter. «We were at home yesterday. Our grandson was visiting. Suddenly it got pitch black as the tornado came. After about a minute it was all over. Unimaginable,” he describes the scenario. Then he helped an injured person who had been thrown against the wall in front of his house. At the back, a tree crashed onto his terrace.

swath of desolation

More than 40 people were injured in Paderborn, including 13 seriously. According to the authorities, a woman was still in mortal danger after an emergency operation in Bielefeld on Saturday. The 300-meter-wide and around five-kilometer-long swath of devastation across the city is still visible, although cleaning, hammering and repairs are being carried out everywhere on Saturday.

“It was an unimaginable picture and it still is,” said Paderborn Mayor Michael Dreier (CDU) at a press conference in the South fire station. He, too, reports of trees and traffic lights snapping like matchsticks. Crash barriers that flew through the air like scraps of paper. Thrown up roof tiles that bored into facades.

There are many craftsmen’s cars along Riemekestrasse. The weather has calmed down, the sun is shining – it seems almost peaceful, but busy. Only a few curious onlookers can be seen. Firefighter Florian Brandt sends his people here and there. “The operations are coordinated and prioritized in the control center and in the staff. The most important thing is always to save people first. Then we have to ensure that the escape routes are cleared. I once saw something similar after a storm in Mülheim an der Ruhr, »he says. “But this is worse.”

Short but very intense

Wolfgang Hölscher is behind the counter in his lottery and tobacco shop. A mountain of branches, the remains of tree trunks and other debris is piling up in front of the shop. An excavator is used to clean up, roof damage is examined from a crane. At the entrance to the shop there are a few people who are talking about what has happened, but who can’t really grasp it.

Hölscher was still open on Friday when the storm came. The 64-year-old was able to observe everything through the window of the shop. “It hardly rained. But the tornado was clearly visible. He looked something like an ice cream cone.” Roof tiles, Styrofoam parts, branches and lighter parts of fences were sucked up, describes Hölscher, who knows exactly how long it took: “It started at 5:14 p.m. It was all over after one minute and 27 seconds.”