Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Southern ND Tornados


High winds are a defining feature of North Dakota, but tornados are something else. Fargo’s deadly 1957 tornado damaged over 1,000 homes and killed ten people. A Watford City twister in 2014 brought winds up to 120 miles per hour and injured a teenager. And a tornado west of the Turtle Mountains in 1996 left a path over a mile wide.

On this date in 1964, an F3 tornado traveled 55 miles, crossing the South Dakota border into North Dakota. It tore a quarter-mile of blacktop off South Dakota Highway 10. It also destroyed two barns near Hague, North Dakota. A dozen cattle were killed at one farm and more damage was reported near Wishek and Burnstad where more barns were hit.

The tornado occurred just after 9 p.m. and moved through three North Dakota counties before dissipating near Streeter. Damages were over $50,000. No deaths or injuries were reported, but another tornado that same day hit Fairmount, North Dakota where eleven people were injured, some tossed 20 feet in the air. Some Fairmounters hid inside 55-gallon barrels. Years later, survivors talked about the storm’s noise like a freight train and its appearance like being inside a vacuum cleaner bag. Hail also contributed to the damage.

The Tornado History Project documents all tornadoes in the U-S starting in 1950. Since then 1,485 tornadoes have occurred in the state, with 28 fatalities and over 300 injuries. The state’s longest tornado traveled 68 miles between New England and Leith in 1975, with one death.

Nowadays, North Dakota has systems in place to warn residents of violent weather. Many cities test siren systems the first Wednesday of every month, but in the summer of 2015, a siren in Streeter failed to activate— 52 years after that F3 tornado dissipated at its doorstep.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


Norman, K. (2015, April 30). Tornado sirens fail test in Jamestown and Streeter, N.D. Grand Forks Herald. Web. Retrieved from:


Speidel, K. (2014, May 6). There was a moment of absolute stillness. Wahpeton Daily News. Web. Retrieved from:


Wood, J. (2014, May 27). Rare North Dakota tornado hits 120 mph. Associated Press. Web. Retrieved from: