The Fargo Tornado of June 20, 1957
Click Here for Ray Jensen's Paper
Click Here for Fargo Commemoration Reflections-Updated July 21, 2007
Click Here Fargo Forum Special on Tornado
The path of the Fargo tornado was 9 miles long and up to 700 feet wide. This F5 tornado was one in a family of 5 tornadoes, with an intermittent damage track of nearly 70 miles from Buffalo, North Dakota, to Dale, Minnesota. Meteorologists, today, would call this a long-lived cyclic supercell thunderstorm. The June 20, 1957, supercell persisted for at least 6 hours and produced tornadoes for more than 4 hours. Conventional radar data was not available at the time for this storm. However, an Air Defense Command (ADC) military radar site 205 miles south-southeast of Fargo measured the top of the thunderstorm between 65,000-75,000 feet. This was an extremely intense, tornadic supercell.
Debris from Fargo was found north of Detroit Lakes near Rochert, Minnesota, (about 54 miles from Fargo) and surrounding areas. For its time, the tornado was photographed more than any other, with detailed film footage as well. Many people from north Fargo evacuated the city before the tornado struck, knowing that the tornado was moving towards them. Warnings were issued by the U.S. Weather Bureau (now NOAA's National Weather Service) and broadcast by local television and radio stations.
The Fargo tornado and the damage it produced was studied by Dr T. Theodore Fujita from the University of Chicago. His groundbreaking paper, published in 1960, provided a detailed analysis of the event and introduced much of the tornado-related terminology still in use today. Dr. Fujita would later quantify tornado damage into something called the F-Scale, which he developed in 1971. Using his scale, the Fargo Tornado damage was then rated as F5.
A study of the meteorological conditions leading up to this historic tornado is being performed by the National Weather Service in Grand Forks. Atmospheric profiles of vertical wind shear, along with temperature and moisture profiles are also being created. This has never been done before for this historic tornado. In addition, personal accounts and social impacts of the tornado will be explored. This study is being conducted to commemorate the June 20, 2007, 50th anniversary of the tornado.
Information will be added to this page throughout 2007, so check back for updates.
Please send any Personal Accounts, pictures, inquiries, comments, suggestions and/or questions of this tornado and its aftermath to David.Kellenbenz@noaa.gov. Here is a list of questions in which we are interested:
1) What did the temperature and humidity feel like that day leading up to the tornado?
2) What was your exact location (to the best of your recollection) when you observed the tornado?
3) How close to the tornado were you?
4) How long did you observe the tornado?
5) Did you know the tornado was coming before you saw it, and did you hear any tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Bureau?
6) Describe some of the damage you observed after the tornado passed.
7) Describe the large parent cloud, or wall cloud associated with the tornado, and what types of rotations you observed?
8) Do you have any pictures of the tornado and/or the damage? If you do, could we obtain copies of these?
9) Any other comments or reflections you may have on this historic tornado?
10) Does the NWS have permission to place your comments on our web page?
The Fargo Forum won a Pulitzer prize for its coverage of the F5 tornado. Two articles on the tornado follow.
The staff of NOAA's National weather Service in Grand Forks would like to thank everyone who contributes to this page.
We would also like to give special thanks and credit to the following for providing valuable pictures, weather charts and video footage: John Wheeler from WDAY-TV in Fargo, Jonathan Finch (NWS DDC), State Historical Society of North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies of NDSU, State Historical Society of North Dakota, and the Fargo Forum.
Fujita, T., 1960: A Detailed Analysis of the Fargo Tornadoes of June 20, 1957. Research Paper No.42, U.S. Weather Bureau, Washington, D.C., 1-67.
Image of Fargo tornado on June 20, 1957 looking southwest towards Hector International Airport. Photograph #23E taken by Gebert (Fujita 1960).
Click Here Fargo Forum Blog site for 57 Survivors
Personal Accounts Updated 6/12/07 (with account 51-56)
Damage Pictures Updated 6/18/07
This webpage is dedicated to the brave people of Fargo who perished, and the people who endured the most devastating Tornado in North Dakota's history.
On the evening of June 20, 1957, around 730 pm, an F5 tornado moved into the Golden Ridge area of Fargo, North Dakota. The tornado killed 13 people (the 13th victim died in 1964 from injuries sustained from tornado), injured more than 100, and destroying or badly damaging over 1,300 homes. The Golden Ridge area sustained the most damage along 8th Ave North (picture of the damage at Golden Ridge, and the zoomed out track and zoomed in track through north Fargo). The tornado track proceded across north Fargo, just clipped the southeast corner of the present day NDSU campus, then continued northeastward, crossing the Red River of the North, and eventually dissipating north of Moorhead, Minnesota.
****NEW- 2 video clips added 4/11/07****