Shortly after 7:30 p.m. on this date in 1957, a tornado ripped through north Fargo. Called by many the “storm of the century,” it left 13 dead, more than 100 injured, and 329 homes destroyed. Churches, schools and other buildings were left in shambles.
Marc Wroe was 13 years old and out on his bike when it hit. Taking shelter in the alcove of a two-story house, he watched stop signs, garbage cans, car hoods, tree branches, boards and shingles flying overhead. “It was like a jet stream,” he told a Forum reporter in 1999. “The heavier things would go slower.”
Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Hospital had been alerted about the approaching storm, which missed the facility by only a few blocks. Isabelle Sandager was on duty that evening and later wrote, “…all we could hear was a constant roar that sounded like 10 jets taking off simultaneously. Very soon after that, the Hospital was thrown into a temporary blackout, until our auxiliary generators kicked in… we were fortunate to have complete power restored, because it would have been almost impossible to run our disaster operations without it.”
The tornado, which had an F-5 rating, took out a swath four blocks wide by 1 mile long. The Golden Ridge neighborhood was virtually wiped out. Homes with no basements left their occupants vulnerable. Six children of the Gerald Munson were among those killed.
Forum reporter Alden McLachlan gathered with others in the entry of the American Lutheran Church; inside, rain poured through gaping windows and holes torn in the roof. The cross that once stood on top of the building had been snapped off.
While walking through other areas of destruction, McLachlan found Mr. Clarence Tegeder standing amidst the wreckage of his home. He and his son were helping his wife search for some valuable jewelry.
Inside another house, a gray-haired woman stood in the remains of her kitchen hugging her young grandson, who was visiting from out of town. She was using an umbrella to protect them from the rain.
After leaving Fargo the funnel moved east into Minnesota. For at least a half an hour after striking Fargo, the funnel was still in sight.
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
The Forum, June 21, 1957 and May 2, 1999.
Isabelle Sandager, The Tornado of ’57: I Was There, http://www.meritcare.com/about/history/tornado.asp. http://www.ci.fargo.nd.us/projectimpact/tornado.htm.