The impact of a deadly summer tornado that struck western North Dakota is still being felt as work continues to improve the area’s weather warning system.
The EF2 tornado slammed into the Prairie View RV Park in Watford City around 12:45 a.m. on July 10, killing a newborn boy and injuring two dozen people. More than 200 homes were damaged and about 200 people were displaced.
McKenzie County’s planning and zoning director, Jim Talbert, told The Bismarck Tribune that discussions are ongoing about finding more permanent solutions, such as building storm shelters for RV parks. County emergency manager Karolin Jappe noted that thanks to the oil boom, the area is no longer home to only 1,500 people, and there’s a need for better ways to warn residents of severe weather.
“Of all the high risks that we do have in our county now, I want to make sure that we can protect the people that live here and work here,” Jappe said.
Shortly after the storm, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven asked federal officials to analyze the Doppler radar near Minot to determine whether it could be adjusted to improve coverage in western North Dakota. The senator said the study should be completed soon.
John Paul Martin, the warning coordination meteorologist with the Bismarck National Weather Service, said the changes could involve installing new software that would help areas across north-central and northwest North Dakota.
The radar would be adjusted before next summer’s severe weather season.
Krystal Lapp recalled the storm, saying she can’t remember how long her family’s mobile home was lifted in the air after the tornado hit.
“We were basically getting sandblasted by debris and scoria and glass, anything it could pick up,” Lapp said. “And it felt like forever.”
When their home landed, it slammed into a neighboring home. She said her husband pulled their sons out of the rubble in the midst of flying debris. Her 10-year-old son Owen suffered a concussion and bleeding injuries, but everyone else made it out with just scratches or bruises.
Lapp’s home was one of 225 housing units damaged by the tornado. Of those, 79 were deemed “unlivable, period,” according to Jappe.
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