Tornado touchdowns, funnel clouds and occasional heavy rain were characteristics of a Tuesday, July 9 storm in the Red River Valley.
A tornado warning was in effect from 5:25-6:15 p.m. for central Wilkin County, Minnesota and east central Richland County, North Dakota. The region includes Wahpeton, Breckenridge, Minnesota and surrounding communities.
“Seven funnel clouds were confirmed, as well as two tornadoes,” said Richland County Emergency Manager Brett Lambrecht. “The tornadoes were spotted in Great Bend and Mooreton.”
Tornado touchdowns were brief, according to Lambrecht and Wilkin County Emergency Manager Breanna Koval. A touchdown occurred north of Breckenridge, she said.
No property damage or injuries were reported as of midday Wednesday, July 10.
“What (the storms) did was fairly unimpressive,” Koval said. “There was heavy rain for a while. The funnel clouds were dancing around. They popped up instantaneously. It was a really interesting event that thankfully turned out well for us. It could have been horrific.”
A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Dwight, North Dakota, at 5:25 p.m. Tuesday. The storm was moving northeast at 25 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
“Torrential raining is occurring with this storm and may lead to flash flooding,” the tornado warning stated. “Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways.”
Storm sightings actually began earlier in the afternoon, Lambrecht said. At approximately 3:50 p.m., there was a sighting near Barney, North Dakota. Throughout the afternoon and early evening, responders monitored the storm.
“In my 14 years, I’d never seen this many funnel clouds,” Lambrecht said.
Emergency sirens were activated throughout Richland and Wilkin counties. They were used in conjunction with emergency messages and social media posts.
“There’s a whole factory-level amount of work done to put out the graphics,” said Bill Barrett, a National Weather Service meteorologist technician in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Heavy rain and damaging wind gusts were the main threats, the weather service reported. Elsewhere in the Red River Valley, there were reports of strong to severe thunderstorms and hail measuring less than a half inch in diameter.
“The main impact of the storms were flash flooding in the Fargo-Moorhead-Dilworth area and thunderstorm wind gusts damaging trees and structures across parts of the region,” NWS stated.
Several Twin Towns Area residents shared photos, video and other updates during the storm. Emergency managers remind the community that it is best to seek shelter rather than potentially be in danger.
“We do wish people would have heeded the warning,” Koval said. “Thankfully, no one was hurt.”
Public storm shelters include the Richland County Law Enforcement Center and Blikre Activity Center in Wahpeton, Lambrecht said.
“If you don’t have a basement or a lower level crawl space, you can take shelter in your bathroom or a hallway without windows,” he continued.
Tornadoes do not necessarily have a “season” as hurricanes do, Barrett explained. In the Great Plains region, they may occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“The most destructive and deadly tornadoes occur from supercells, which are rotating thunderstorms with a well-defined radar circulation called a mesocyclone,” the National Severe Storms Laboratory stated.
A tornado’s formation is believed to be dictated by what occurs on the storm scale, in and around the mesocyclone.
First responders, fire departments and other emergency personnel will continue to review their tornado protocol.
“We’re going to make sure how we can be more efficient,” Lambrecht said.
Storm situations always seem to happen when she’s preparing dinner, Koval said. She had, in fact, sent her husband out for groceries just before the warning was in effect.
“It’s just miraculous that nothing happened,” Koval continued. “It’s wonderful in that aspect.”