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The 1957 Fargo Tornado

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The morning edition of the Fargo Forum on June 26, 1957, continued the harrowing news of the massive tornado that struck the city. The banner headline of the newspaper trumpeted “Red Cross Says At Least $250,000 Needed for Tornado Victims Here.”

“Operation Cleanup” was the massive plan to help restore the damage that followed in the twister’s wake. The efforts were aggravated by the “added burden and damage caused by 43 inches of rain that fell in the area.” The primary damage zone was the north side of Fargo, specifically the Golden Ridge area.

The paper reported that “The whine of chain saws sang like music in the streets” as householders removed fallen trees and branches.

The Salvation Army maintained an around-the-clock vigil. Lt. Colonel Herbert Martin, division commander for North Dakota and Minnesota, observed the ruins and remarked that the destruction was much worse than he expected. He added that resources from the Salvation Army had arrived from Jamestown, Grand Forks, and Devils Lake in North Dakota; as well as Crookston, Fergus Falls and St. Paul in Minnesota.

An unexpected example of community goodness came from Mayville students. Members of the school band voted to cancel their planned trip to Canada’s Calgary Stampede. They had raised money for the trip with a school talent show, but they overwhelmingly opted to send the proceeds for disaster relief instead.

A spokesperson for the Weather Bureau in Washington DC noted that the tornado was “probably the best documented in Weather Bureau history.” All of the Fargo Forum’s pictures of the disaster, from the forming of the funnel to the tragic aftermath, were made available for Weather Bureau analysis.

Ten people died in the tornado. One family lost three of its nine members.

In a somber newspaper editorial, The Forum noted that “Fargo was now challenged by a new awareness of danger from the elements,” saying the difference could be felt for a generation.

The editorial concluded by saying, “Most Fargo residents of the affected north side area must have been on the alert and in possession of advanced warning. On the whole, the loss of life was comparatively small considering the potentialities.”

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

Fargo Forum Morning, June 26, 1957
Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 22, 1957

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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