WATFORD CITY — A tornado touched down about 5 miles south of Watford City on Monday night, damaging a dozen trailers at an RV camp, according to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.
Meteorologist John Martin with the National Weather Service in Bismarck said a tornado warning was issued for areas of McKenzie County at about 7:46 p.m. CDT Monday and learned shortly thereafter that a tornado had touched down. Martin said it was the first tornado of 2014 in North Dakota.
“We know that there were 12 trailers that were destroyed,” said Cecily Fong, the public information officer for the state Department of Emergency Services.
Karen Holte, a McKenzie County Red Cross volunteer, said a shelter set up at the Watford City Civic Center was providing help to four displaced families at about midnight.
Watford City medical personnel told Holte that they had treated nine people for injuries and one had been airlifted to a medical facility for further treatment.
The thunderstorm brought with it large, damaging hail, Martin said.
“Golf ball to even a little bigger sized than that,” he said.
A reader shared a photo with The Dickinson Press on Facebook that indicated hail larger than a tennis ball 8 miles southwest of Watford City.
The McKenzie County Office of Emergency Management sent a message through the state Department of Emergency Services at about 8:30 p.m. CDT, stating: “Please stay off the roads. Emergency vehicles are having a hard time reaching the injured. Stay home and stay safe.”
Two vehicles were in the ditch near the campground, one of which were overturned.
About 1 mile south of Watford City, Reino Rousu was hunkered down in his shop during the storm with his four children as hail larger than golf balls pelted the steel roof.
“It sounded like you were sitting in a firing range,” Rousu said.
Rousu watched what he thinks were three tornadoes touch down further south of his home.
“You could see debris flying around it,” Rousu said. “It was on the ground for a long time.”
Rousu is contract manager for GHB Realty, which owns an extended stay housing facility south of Watford City. Windshields of about 15 residents were smashed and the windows to the lodge were destroyed, but no injuries were reported, he said.
“We were lucky it didn’t touch down on us,” Rousu said. “We just got the hail and the hard wind.”
Joy Haut, manager of an RV park adjacent to the park that was hit by the tornado, said she had a friend in the park that was hit.
Haut said the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, of which she is a member, was working to help those affected by the tornado find a place to stay and replace any clothing or food they may have lost in the storm.
The storm moved southeast through McKenzie County and headed toward Dunn County and the cities of Killdeer and Dunn Center, as well as Little Missouri State Park and the McKenzie Bay Recreation Area. Dunn County Sheriff Clay Coker said he received 1.9 inches of rain in less than an hour, but no hail and a high wind of 20 mph recorded at his home weather station. “If you were driving, you’d probably have to stop it’s raining so hard,” Dunn County Emergency Manager Denise Brew said. Despite multiple tornado warnings in the county, there was no report of damage at the time The Press was published Monday night. Dickinson received torrential downpours and pea-size hail after 10:30 a.m.
Forum News Service reporter Amy Dalrymple and Dickinson Press reporters Nadya Faulx, Katherine Lymn and April Baumgarten contributed to this story. See Wednesday’s newspaper for more.