On Wednesday night, September 3, 2014, the recent spate of unseasonable weather took another bizarre turn as a storm front moved from Billings through Dunn and Mercer Counties.
Photos by Stacy Swenson
Large hail from the storm damaged much of Sample Auto’s inventory in Manning, ND.
Hail damaged vehicles at Sample Auto Sales in Manning.
High winds from the storm pulled a barn door off it’s tracks
JP Martin at the National Weather Service in Bismarck estimated that winds gusting to at least 75 mph drove through Grassy Butte, Manning and into northeast McKenzie County. Not officially calling the storm “tornadic”, Martin did verify that extensive hail and wind damage occurred in both Manning and a local farm just a few miles south of Dunn Center. Finally flipping over a large 5th wheel and doing extensive damage to a large Quonset hut at that farm causing minor injuries to a 9 year old girl who was inside the trailer at the time the winds hit. The National Weather Service is reviewing photographs of the damage at this time and coordinating with the Dunn County Emergency Management to determine whether or not a tornado was actually involved. The investigation is expected to be completed soon with interviews of at least one witness remaining who claims to have seen a tornado-like cloud formation in the area during the melee.
At the Dunn County Courthouse in Manning, Emergency Management Director Denise Brew described a chaotic scene when the storm hit both the courthouse and Sample Auto Sales (right next door) simultaneously that night, “I was outside the courthouse responding to emergency weather calls when a piece of hail about the size of a golf ball smacked the ground right in front of me and I high-tailed it inside.” Damages at/near that building were extensive including torn screens on west side of the courthouse, damage to the new County Shop (including portions of its siding, an overhead door and a door window) just south of the courthouse, which is still under construction. A scene of broken tree limbs, leaves and other debris, which is expected to delay completion of the shop project until the contractor’s insurance company can review the damage. It is unknown yet as to whether the courthouse roof is damaged as an inspector has been contacted and the county is “on the list.”
Sheriff Clay Coker and Auditor Tracy Dolezal also reported damage to at least 8 county vehicles parked at the courthouse and which were either assigned to Road & Bridge or, a general-purpose vehicle. Broken windshields, windows and extensive hail damage (similar to that experienced by the automobile dealership next door) required the county’s vehicles to be removed and stored awaiting their own insurance adjuster. Auditor Tracey Dolezal described hail damage to all of the vehicles that “looked like someone took a large hammer to them” and Brew said, “the hail looked to be between the size of a golf ball and a small baseball” as the storm raged. Pieces of hail the size of a racquetball were still visible at 10 AM the next morning lying on the ground in Manning. Costs to repair the damages will run into the thousands since the vehicles are almost certainly a total loss.
The worst hail storm that courthouse employees could remember for over a decade and, no one could ever remember hailstones as big as those that pelted Manning. Leaving many county residents to wonder what will happen next as the volatile, local weather continues into the fall. Sheriff Coker accepted his department’s latest 9-1-1 calls during the storm, in the seemingly unending string of weather barrages, with stoic, understated panache, “Just another part of the job. It’s all about public safety and, my guys and I just take it as it comes.”