WHERE DO YOU GO? WHAT DO YOU DO?: Deadly tornado season prompts emergency planning concern

Dunn County received an unwelcome surprise on May 26, 1978.

 

The 2009 tornado in Dickinson ripped through Stark County, causing $25 million worth of property damage. (File Photo)
The 2009 tornado in Dickinson ripped through Stark County, causing $25 million worth of property damage. (File Photo)

 

By BRYCE MARTIN

Herald Editor

Posted May 24, 2013

Dunn County received an unwelcome surprise on May 26, 1978.

In the then quiet city of Killdeer touched down a tornado, surprising and startling residents.

The historic tornado measured an EF-2 (elongation factor), with a length of .3 miles and a width of 33 yards.

No injuries or fatalities were reported, but the tornado caused about $25,000 in property destruction.

“I grew up right at the Killdeer Mountains and I was out there watching it when it hit,” said Denise Brew, Dunn County emergency manager.

July 8, 2009 marked a dark day for neighboring Stark County, when an EF-3 twister caused two injuries and was responsible for a remarkable $20 million in property damage.

The tornado made history for that county with a length of two miles and a width of 350 yards.

While Dunn County may not be considered a hotbed of tornado activity, it ranked 38 out of 53 counties in the state for the amount of tornados over the past 50 years – Cass County ranked No. 1 meaning it had the most tornadic activity in North Dakota.

Considering the tragic events caused by twisters in Texas and Oklahoma over the past two weeks, Dunn County explained their protocol for handling emergencies caused by tornados.

“It’s a huge concern, but we don’t have great answers for you,” Brew said.

The large amount of people coming into Dunn County each day to live or conduct business leaves Brew worried, she said.

Ten years ago, the county was aware of its 3,600 population. Now they don’t know, in any given hour, how many people are within the boundaries, she said.

But the best advice Brew said she could provide on how to prepare for a tornado would be to “find out your locality.”

“Understand where you live and the impact what has happened there in the past,” she said. “Talk to whoever you rent from or who you purchased from or who your neighbors are.”

The amount of RVs and trailer courts around the county pose an additional problem when it comes to safety during tornados, as those structures don’t have shelters. Brew said adding a clause to the existing conditional use permit to specify shelter would be worthwhile.

“That’s something I talked with Target Logistics about because that’s a huge concern for them in their spot north of Dickinson,” she said. “I think it’s 600 people there. You have a tornado warning (and) they’re probably better off to go outside and lie down on the ground. And that’s scary.

“If we had a perfect plan, we’d have a perfect basement – somewhere for everyone to go.”

The city of Killdeer maintains their emergency plan for destructive weather as the basement of the social services building in Killdeer.

Nonfunctioning emergency sirens also handicap the county.

Right now, Halliday does not have functional sirens.

“They’re very worried; they’re trying to get it fixed,” Brew said.

The city of Dodge has workable alarms, but is looking for funds to purchase a new one. Manning doesn’t have one because it’s considered an unincorporated town and one of Killdeer’s two sirens is not working, but the city is looking into a solution.

“I need to sit down and approach the (county) commission about some emergency support,” Brew said. “We always put these things off on the next grant that comes along, but this is a life.”

Contact Bryce Martin at bmartin@countrymedia.net.


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