Tornadoes are one of nature's most destructive storms. They frequently strike with minimal warning and can leave wide paths of destruction in their wake. Over the years, a large number of severe tornadoes have struck communities in FEMA Region VIII. Some have become known for their influence on the study of these deadly storms, while others have literally wiped towns off the map. Below are the stories of some of these devastating storms.
Howard, Dakota Territory (today Howard, South Dakota)
On August 28, a series of tornadoes struck Miner County, Dakota Territory, now South Dakota. The storm is notable today for an image taken by F.N. Robinson, making the storm one of the earliest ever photographed.
Fargo, North Dakota
The June 20, 1957 Fargo tornado was one of the deadliest disasters in North Dakota history, with 10 deaths attributed to the storm. The Fargo tornado resulted in the first-ever federal disaster declaration for the state. The storm is also noteworthy as it occurred during the daytime and was one of the earliest tornadoes to be heavily photographed. The large amount of visual documentation proved valuable to researchers, including "Mr. Tornado" Ted Fujita who spent several years studying the event and later developed the Fujita scale to rate the level of damage created by tornadoes. Upon development of the scale, the Fargo tornado was retroactively rated an F-5, and is recognized as one of the most powerful tornadoes ever.
On July 16, 1979 one of the most damaging tornadoes in Wyoming history swept through the capital city of Cheyenne. The F-3 twister killed one person, injured 40 and damaged hundreds of homes. The storm was on the ground for nearly 45 minutes and caused an estimated $40 million in damage.
Spencer, South Dakota
An F-4 tornado struck the small community of Spencer, South Dakota on May 30, destroying nearly every home and the entire businesss district. The storm also killed six residents.
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
A series of severe thunderstorms on June 4 gave rise to tornadic activity and straight line winds that damaged hundreds of homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, with much of the damage centered around the community of Oglala, South Dakota.
Salt Lake City, Utah
On August 11, a rare tornado struck in the heart of Salt Lake City, causing more than $170 million in damage and resulting in the state's first tornado fatality in more than 115 years. The tornado was rated at F2 strength and was on the ground for approximately ten minutes and covered nearly 4 miles.
South Dakota's Tornado Tuesday
A massive outbreak in eastern South Dakota on June 24 tied the single day record with 67 tornadoes occuring. (The record has since been surpassed). The largest of these tornadoes was an F-4 that struck the unincorporated community of Manchester, wiping out every structure on the town site.
An F-2 tornado hit the community of Wright in Campbell County on Aug. 12. Two residents were killed by the storm and more than a hundred homes were damaged or destroyed.
Northwood, North Dakota
On Aug. 26, an EF-4 tornado swept through the town of Northwood, killing one, injuring 18 and causing more than $60 million in damages. The school was also heavily damaged forcing relocation of students for the 2007-08 school year until a new facility was completed.
On May 22, an EF-3 tornado took a lengthy trip through Weld County, with much of the damage occuring in the area of Windsor. The tornado killed 1, injured 78 and caused an estimated $200 million in damage. The tornado was out of the ordinary in that in occurred fairly early in the day, around noon, and it travelled in a northwesterly path.
The Father's Day Tornado hit Billings on June 20. The tornado caused extensive damage to the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, tearing much of the roof from the facility. The Heights section of Billings also saw damage to homes and businesses. The storm was accompanied by hail and heavy rains which caused some localized flooding.