Significant severe thunderstorms hit northwest and parts of central North Dakota late Monday, July 9 into Tuesday, July 10, 2018, producing an EF-2 tornado that ripped through the Prairie View RV Park in Watford City, McKenzie County. The storm was accompanied by strong winds and up to golf ball-sized hail. 122 structures in the park were completely destroyed, 79 sustained moderate damage and 12 minor to no damage. An estimated 200 people have been displaced.
The tornado impacted the Watford City area around 00:45 CDT on July 10, injuring 28 people, including a seven-day-old baby who later died from his injuries. The boy was critically hurt after a trailer he was in flipped during the storm. Nine others are still in critical condition, as of late July 10 (local time).
Karolin Jappe, the McKenzie County emergency manager, said the RV park is one of the largest such facilities to spring up during the oil boom and there were some mobile homes on the property. “It’s just like an oversized RV park on steroids,” Jappe said.
“The most intense damage corresponded to EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. From that, it was determined that wind speeds were around 204 km/h (127 mph). The tornado was embedded in a line of damaging thunderstorm winds of around 120 km/h (75 mph), leaving many manufactured single wide homes and RV trailers completely destroyed,” NWS office in Bismarck said.
“The tornado touched down in a narrow strip of the Prairie View RV Park,” said John Paul Martin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Bismarck. “The damage in that narrow strip is just intense; it’s complete destruction,” Martin said.
The intensity of the tornado is similar to the EF-2 tornado that destroyed an RV park just south of Watford City in May 2014, Martin added. “However, this tornado caused significantly more damage and injuries because more people live in the Prairie View RV Park.”
“There’s tremendous, just intense destruction here,” Martin said.
Patrol Sgt. Matthew Walsh of the Watford City Police Department said that hail and steady rain made it difficult for first-responders as they worked to evacuate the park. “We couldn’t see anything,” he said.
Featured image: Watford City RV park damage after EF-2 tornado on July 10, 2018. Credit: NWS