White Out in July
Killdeer pummeled by massive hailstorm
Killdeer resembled a wartime winter landscape after last Sunday’s 20-minute supercell storm ravaged most of the city and some rural areas southwest of town.
By Jennifer Strange
Hail balls measuring 3.2 inches in diameter and winds gusting to 75 mph were reported by the National Weather Service in Bismarck. More than four inches of rain fell in a short period, leaving the town’s lower-elevation grounds and streets flooded in up to a foot of water.
The punishing hail lasted so long it ripped the leaves and bark off trees, broke through nearly every west- and north-facing window in Killdeer, stripped nearly every building of siding and shingles, totaled nearly every vehicle parked outside and left yards and streets full of dangerous detritus.
“This was wicked-ugly,” said Dunn County Emergency Manager Denise Brew. “For a storm to actually just hover and hit a town for 15 or 20 minutes, you just don’t see that.”
Brew said the storm seemed to start west of Manning, travel along 12th street and then north to Killdeer. “There’s not much damage in the Village of Manning,” she said. “It seemed like it followed Highway 22 through Killdeer. About a mile north of Killdeer, they said there was no more damage.”
A decimated landscape
As people emerged from whatever shelter they were able to find during the storm, they were faced with a world of hurt. Although no injuries were reported, days of cleanup, insurance claims community outreach were sure to turn into weeks and maybe months before a sense of normalcy would return.
Businesses were closed for repairs and because employees were trying to put their homes and lives back together.
Some area residents—especially those living in temporary Oil Patch housing and RV parks—were left with nothing, as hail balls penetrated the walls of their trailers and cars.
Residents, newspaper headlines and television news anchors all called the aftermath something that resembled a war zone.
How do we deal with this?
The phone in Janet Wanek’s office started ringing off the hook first thing Monday morning.
“People are calling to find out how to deal with home and crop damages and general storm cleanup,” said the Dunn County NDSU Extension Family & Consumer Science Agent. “We’ve been referring them to insurance agencies and encouraging them to call the city.”
City garbage trucks, local contractors and volunteers have been working overtime all week to remove debris from streets, Wanek said.
“I haven’t heard of any livestock damage but have heard about lots of dead birds in yards and streets,” she said.
State of emergency
By Tuesday, the Dunn County Commission and the City of Killdeer had declared a joint state of emergency.
“We’re calling it a Severe Summer Storm Emergency,” said Brew. “The biggest thing it does is open up the county emergency fund account. Especially if there’s a livestock disaster or cropland disaster, you want to make sure you have a declaration.”
Brew couldn’t yet predict if the damage threshold for a FEMA disaster declaration would be met.
“I know there was a massive amount of loss,” she said. “But it’s very difficult to reach that threshold because individual residents can’t be counted.”
Total damages not known
“I don’t have an official assessment on city and county damages,” said Brew. “I’ve been informed most of the rural damage was incurred by farmers west of Manning, where cropland and farmsteads were totally destroyed.”
While the City of Killdeer’s public services, such as water, sewer and electric, were not damaged or interrupted by the storm, everything else sustained major injury.
“All of our police department, city and shop vehicles and pretty much any building we have has damage,” said City of Killdeer Administrator Dawn Marquardt. “We haven’t yet compiled an assessment of the damage—we’re still very busy coordinating what needs to be done for residents and making that information accessible.”
Several contractors have approached the city and left business cards to be passed onto residents in need of services.
“We’ve been stressing to homeowners to make sure all contractors are licensed and bonded in the state of North Dakota,” said Marquardt. “Folks can call the City of Killdeer’s Building Inspector Ron Fettig and he can check out any contractor.”
A different kind of storm
“You talk to some of the older folks and they say they’ve never seen hail like this before,” said Marquardt. “The fog after the hail was so eerie; it really was a different scene—so incredibly widespread.”
Brew called it a “cartoon storm, where the big, black cloud just sits over one place and dumps.”
That the storm was so widespread in a small area made it difficult to manage.
“It was one of those moments when you go, Where do we start?,” said Marquardt. Right away, she was on the phone with Brew and Killdeer’s City Superintendent. They each had their own property with damage, but they put that aside to figure out how to help residents.
Where do we go from here?
“That’s a good question,” said Marquardt. “I guess we learn from this; we learn things we could do differently next time. We know Mother Nature will return.”
Brew encouraged residents to really focus on their family’s emergency plan. Have an emergency kit in the basement or storm shelter.
“If you don’t have a basement, get in the bathtub and put a mattress over you,” she said. “As a last resort, crouch in a closet where there’s no glass and pull as many clothes down on top of you as you can to protect from flying glass.”
Also, make sure your emergency plan—and cleanup plan—includes good, strong footwear.
“If I could go back to the prior-to and making one good suggestion, I’d say put on your shoes before you go to the basement,” Brew said. “Don’t wear flip-flops. Take that two minutes to put shoes and socks on your kids and then on yourself. There’s glass everywhere.”