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Grand Forks Cyclone


On this date in 1887, the University of North Dakota’s only building was almost blown to smithereens. Though no tornadoes were sighted, newspapers reported “a terrible cyclonic calamity.”

The University had been established four years earlier, and North Dakota was still two years from statehood, but 100 students occupied Old Main, along with faculty, classrooms and other academic amenities.

Around 3 p.m. on June 16, green, whirling clouds descended on Grand Forks, and half an hour later the city lay heavily damaged by wind, hail and torrential rain. Several residents were injured and dying. Old Main itself sustained substantial damage. Numerous buildings lost roofs, walls and windows, and even a train was overturned on its tracks north of town.

Dakota Datebook written by Karen Horsley


It Really Happened Here! by Ethelyn Pearson

Fargo-Moorhead Daily Argus, June 17 and 18, 1887

University of North Dakota history website