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Fargo Tornado

6/20/2005:

Shortly after 7:30 p.m. on this day 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.

The tornado was first reported touching down 15 miles west of Fargo near Mapleton. As it headed east, it split into two funnels outside of West Fargo, and then came back together to strike full force. Mrs. D.G. Askland said, “(It) sounded like a swarm of bees just before it hit.”

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 ‘99. “The heavier things would go slower.”

Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Hospital had been alerted about the oncoming 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 particularly vulnerable. The following morning, The Forum reported three casualties were siblings from the Gerald Munson family – ages 6, 5 and 1. But when all was said and done, the Munsons actually lost six children.

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. When asked by a woman to rescue some Bibles, McLachlan went inside to search. Finding one in a pulpit up front, he opened it, and the first words he saw were, ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more...’ from the book of Ezekiel.

While walking through other areas of destruction, McLachlan found Mr. Clarence Tegeder standing amidst the wreckage of what was once his home. He and his son were helping his wife search for some valuable jewelry.

One woman told McLachlan about her neighbors, the Crowes, all of whom had survived. Mrs. Crowe had lain across her three children in the basement to protect them; they had also saved their cat, their dog and two turtles.

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 the tornado struck Fargo, its great funnel was in sight,” wrote McLachlan. “Victims stood between trees, which had been whipped across the streets. They watched as the snake of wind moved slowly away... It appeared to stretch for miles, a thin light funnel.”

Sources:

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.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
Shortly after 7:30 p.m. on this day 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.

The tornado was first reported touching down 15 miles west of Fargo near Mapleton. As it headed east, it split into two funnels outside of West Fargo, and then came back together to strike full force. Mrs. D.G. Askland said, “(It) sounded like a swarm of bees just before it hit.”

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 ‘99. “The heavier things would go slower.”

Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Hospital had been alerted about the oncoming 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 particularly vulnerable. The following morning, The Forum reported three casualties were siblings from the Gerald Munson family – ages 6, 5 and 1. But when all was said and done, the Munsons actually lost six children.

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. When asked by a woman to rescue some Bibles, McLachlan went inside to search. Finding one in a pulpit up front, he opened it, and the first words he saw were, ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more...’ from the book of Ezekiel.

While walking through other areas of destruction, McLachlan found Mr. Clarence Tegeder standing amidst the wreckage of what was once his home. He and his son were helping his wife search for some valuable jewelry.

One woman told McLachlan about her neighbors, the Crowes, all of whom had survived. Mrs. Crowe had lain across her three children in the basement to protect them; they had also saved their cat, their dog and two turtles.

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 the tornado struck Fargo, its great funnel was in sight,” wrote McLachlan. “Victims stood between trees, which had been whipped across the streets. They watched as the snake of wind moved slowly away... It appeared to stretch for miles, a thin light funnel.”

Sources:

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.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm