Black Sunday

       April 30, 1967

 INTRODUCTION:

 For long time residents of southern Minnesota, Sunday, April 30, 1967, known as Black Sunday, is a day that has lived in vivid detail for 40 years and will likely continue to be remembered for many years to come through stories passed through generations of Minnesotans.

On Black Sunday, a windy, humid afternoon was replaced by an evening of devastation and destruction, as a series of northward moving supercell thunderstorms spawned several long tracked, violent tornadoes across Freeborn, Waseca, and Steele counties.  Between the hours of 6 and 7 pm, portions of the cities of Albert Lea and Waseca were destroyed, while Owatonna barely escaped ruin from a tornado that passed just a mile west of the city limits.  Mother Nature also took aim at more rural areas surrounding the communities of Alden, Hartland, New Richland, Myrtle, Clarks Grove, Ellendale, Emmons, and Twin Lakes.

At the end of the day, nine tornadoes had affected south central and southeast Minnesota, including the seven in Freeborn, Waseca, and Steele counties and one each in Mower and Olmsted counties.  Additional tornadoes occurred in northern and eastern Iowa.  Of the nine Minnesota tornadoes, only one received a Fujita scale rating of less than F2 intensity.  In all, southern Minnesota was raked by three F4s, two F3s, three F2s, and one F1.

The maximum tornado width observed was 500 yards, almost a third of a mile, while the tornado that damaged Albert Lea and narrowly missed Owatonna traveled 40 miles without once lifting.  Characteristics of each tornado affecting southern Minnesota, as outlined in Significant Tornadoes: 1680-1991 by Thomas P. Grazulis, are found below.

Time

Counties

Fujita Rating

Path Width

Path Length

Narrative Description from Grazulis

6:05

Freeborn, Waseca

F3

100 yards

14 miles

“Moved NNW from NW of Alden to near Matawan. Farm damage was near-F4 in the first part of the path. Homes and barns were destroyed.”

6:05

Steele

F1

Unknown

Unknown

6:15

Freeborn, Waseca

F4

500 yards

30 miles

“Moved N from near Hartland to 7 [miles] NNE of Waseca. This tornado followed Hwy-67 into Waseca, destroying or damaging farm buildings on both sides of the road. It cut a four-block-wide swath in town, destroying 16 homes, six of which were leveled, and 25 more were heavily damaged.”

6:15

Freeborn, Waseca

F2

Unknown

30 miles

“Moved N, parallel to and 4 [miles] E of the previous tornado. Destroyed barns were noted west of Lemond and Meriden. Little attention was paid to this event in the press.”

6:20

Freeborn, Worth (IA)

F4

400 yards

18 miles

“Moved N from 2 [miles] SE of Manly, Iowa to near Myrtle, Minnesota. This tornado destroyed about 10 farms, leveling at least three of them in near-F5 fashion. Ten other farms, mostly in Iowa, were extensively damaged.”

6:23

Freeborn, Steele

F4

200 yards

40 miles

“Moved NNE from SW of Twin Lakes to Albert Lea, Clarks Grove, Ellendale, Hope, and west of Owatonna. Farms were leveled at a half dozen locations along the path. There was $2,000,000 damage in Albert Lea, where 26 homes were destroyed and 64 were badly damaged.

6:28

Freeborn, Worth (IA)

F3

400 yards

6 miles

“Moved N from just south of the Iowa border to near London. About a half dozen farms were extensively damaged, with at least two farm homes destroyed.”

7:15

Mower

F2

Unknown

6 miles

“Moved N after touching down on a farm 1.5 [miles] SE of Austin. At least two barns and one home were unroofed and torn apart.”

8:10

Olmsted

F2

Unknown

8 miles

“Moved NE, from near Marion to NE of Eyota. A trailer and a barn were destroyed.”

 

 

Detailed Tornado Track Map

 Detailed Tornado Track Map

The amount of human suffering resulting from the Black Sunday tornadoes was tremendous.  Thirteen Minnesotans perished, and eighty more were injured.  The names of those lost in these storms follow.

       
        Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Manuel
        Herman Nehring
        Mrs. Michael Hassing
        Harlan Holleschau
        Mr. and Mrs. Merton Bickford
        Mr. and Mrs. John Ripple
        Mr. and Mrs. George Willock
        Mr. and Mrs. Art Rux

Collage of the Victims

Collage of the Tornado Victims

 

Property losses totaled 9 million dollars (not adjusted for inflation), including extensive agricultural and livestock losses.

While Black Sunday certainly served as the "worst of times" for many in southern Minnesota, the tragedies of that evening also revealed the lend-a-hand spirit of local residents.  Newspapers and other publications contained numerous accounts of communities banding together to resurrect their cities and take care of their own, as well as students and other volunteers traveling from many miles away to help those in need.  This spirit certainly provided the lone silver lining to an otherwise tremendous catastrophe.

 

 

 

 


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