Posted 5/27/14 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Do emergency weather warnings work at preventing possible loss of life? You bet they do. Especially, when you take them seriously.
And if you don’t believe it, just ask those residents of Riley RV Park who heeded the tornado warning that came across their televisions, radios and smart phones on Monday evening. Like many of the other residents of central McKenzie County, when the severe thunderstorm warnings were issued, the people of that trailer park started to look for options to get to safety.
But this particular storm had a few twists and turns that took everyone by surprise. First, there was the heavy rains and softball-sized hail that battered any farm machinery or vehicles that were unprotected. And then the tornado hit.
For most area residents, this was the first time that they had ever seen a funnel cloud, let alone seen a tornado touch down. And by McKenzie County standards, this was a tornado to be remembered. It was visible in the air from a distance of nearly six miles as it moved across the sky. And when it touched down, it was immediately filled with dirt and debris.
For the people living in the RV Park, seeing the tornado bearing down on them had to be one of the most helpless feelings imaginable. While a stick built home or apartment may afford some protection from a tornado, a camper does not. And when that tornado rolled through the park, there was very little left of those campers.
In less than a minute, as many as 12 campers were nothing more than wrecked fiberglass shells, and debris from the campers was strewn across the countryside.
By the grace of God, and by people heeding the severe weather warnings, no one was critically injured as the tornado lashed through the park, although several people had to be hospitalized for their injuries.
We can all be thankful for that.
We can also be thankful that the tornado touched down in one of the smaller RV parks in the county and did not hit a more heavily populated area or hit one of the nearby gas plants.
The lesson that we all need to remember as we move into the summer months when severe thunderstorms are possible, is to heed the warnings. And if you don’t have adequate protection from severe storms where you live, then be prepared to leave at once and get to one of the designated county shelters immediately.
While McKenzie County is not prone to tornados, as we just witnessed, they can happen.