Dawson County Tornado of April 20th, 2007

The tornado first entered the extreme southwestern corner of Dawson County, then traveled north approximately 12 miles before moving into Custer County. The first tornado report in Dawson County occurred about 5 miles southwest of Gothenburg just north of Wiggens Canyon near county road 409 and approximately 1/2 mile south of county road 763. The tornado was rated on the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale as an EF-0 initially. The tornado continued to move north and strengthened to a rating of EF-2 as it moved approximately 3 miles southwest of Gothenburg.  The storm then continued north, staying just west of Gothenburg as it crossed Interstate 80. The tornado fluctuated between EF-1 and EF-2 as it moved further north into Custer County. Top wind speeds during the event have been estimated at around 120 MPH.

Path widths ranged from 100 yards near initiation to as much as one mile in width at times. Several witnesses attested to the tornado width as this event evolved. Damage to farmsteads and residences was extensive - including roofs being partially blown off, wall and window damage, extensive tree damage including large trees being uprooted, and several sheds and outbuildings being destroyed. In addition power poles were snapped near their bases for a one mile stretch, about 5 to 6 miles north of Gothenburg.  Extensive damage to center pivots were common especially north of Gothenburg to the Dawson/Custer County line.

EF Scale ratings are preliminary at this time and may be updated later after viewing more photographic evidence. 

The National Weather Service in Hastings sent out a tornado survey team, utilizing GPS technology to map the tornado damage path, and then incorporating this information into Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) maps for futher graphic representation.

The map above is an expanded view of the main damage track of the Dawson County tornado, from the NWS Hastings storm survey of April 21st, 2007. The tornado track was investigated from the initial touchdown point to the Dawson and Custer county lines.

Note:  The inverted black triangles indicate locations of damage as noted by National Weather Service investigating officials, through the use of our GIS Storm Survey equipment, personal interviews with owners of properties involved, and cooperation with Dawson County Emergency Management and law enforcement officials.

The map above is a blown up view of the area affected by the tornado track as it moved across western Dawson County.

The thumb nail images below (please click to enlarge) show some of the damage incurred by the tornado - as it first touched down just north of Wiggens Canyon near Banner Church Road, then proceeded on a northerly track through far western Dawson County. Luckily the main damage path remained a couple miles west of the city of Gothenburg itself, although numerous homes and farmsteads sustained significant damage.

(From left to right - debris at farmstead,- 2nd and 3rd pictures above show debris in fields, and 4th picture remnants of a grain bin)

Outbuildings gone
(From left to right - hole punched into kitchen of home from debris, roof remnants in field, roof off structure, and farm outbuildings gone)

(Left to right - scarecrow among debris, large trees down, roof off garage building not held by hurricane clips, and center pivot damage)

The picture above was provided by National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Pfannkuch - taken at 800 PM on April 20th while the storm was along the Frontier/Red Willow county line.  This supercell thunderstorm went on to produce the tornado across Dawson County later in the evening.

 Page composition and GIS mapping by Steve Carmel

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