A historic tornado outbreak occurred over eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota during the afternoon into the early evening hours on June 17, 2010. Three violent EF4 tornadoes occurred in the Grand Forks NWS County Warning Area (CWA), in addition to one EF3 tornado. One EF4 tornado occurred near Holmes, ND, another in Wadena, MN and another in the Almora-Bluffton area. There were also 2 fatalities on this day, one in Mentor, MN from an EF3 tornado, and another in Almora, MN. The death in Mentor, MN was caused by an EF3 tornado as it destroyed a convenient store.  In addition, at least a total of 30 tornadoes occurred in the Grand Forks CWA.  If anyone has pictures, video or other eye witness accounts of any tornadoes this day, please email David.Kellenbenz@noaa.gov.  This page will be dedicated to the meteorology behind this historic tornado outbreak.

A strong area of low pressure above the surface was approaching from the west CLICK HERE, with a surface frontal boundary near the tornado outbreak area CLICK HERE.  This strong frontal boundary forced air together and caused low level convergence CLICK HERE, which is needed for strong thunderstorm development.  The air near the surface was also very unstable, and air parcels were able to rise freely CLICK HERE.  In addition, winds were strong at all levels of the atmosphere, and this caused strong wind shear.  A more detailed meteorolgical explanation of the event can be found below.

The strong wind shear at all levels near the surface boundary caused storm relative helicities, which indicates the potential for spin in the atmosphere, around 500 across the tornado outbreak area CLICK HERE.  The effective deep layered shear (0-6km) was also around 60kt  CLICK HERE.  For comparison, the Barnes county F4 tornado in July 2004 had 0-6km shear values of around 50kt in addition to other tornado outbreak days in this area.  The low level shear in the 0-1km layer was also very high CLICK HERE, with 40-50kt of shear in the lower levels level.  This allowed the storms to rotate and enabled tornadoes to form this day. 

The combination of strong shear, high instability and other ideal tornado parameters came together to cause a tornado outbreak on June 17, 2010.  CLICK HERE for the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP) from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).  These values from 4-7 are extreme with most EF2 tornadoes associated with values greater than 1.  For comparison, the Northwood, ND EF4 tornado had values of STP around 2. 

Surface map near beginning of tornado outbreak around 4pm CDT (Credit J. Finch)

surface map 21Z

 Surface map at 4pm CDT (click for larger image)


Base reflectivity from 301 pm-656pm CDT (Click for larger image)

Radar loop 301pm-656pm


Satellite imagery below from June 17, 2010

Visible Satellite Imagery 845 am-615pm CDT 

Visible Satellite Imagery from 645 pm-845 pm CDT






USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.