NWS Twin Cities Home Page » Historical Severe Weather Events » May 6, 1965 Tornado Outbreak

The May 6, 1965 Tornadoes

The worst tornadoes in Twin Cities history occurred in 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the 7-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 injured. Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the outstanding communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather.

There were two photographs of tornadoes - the Deephaven tornado and the second Fridley tornado were both published in the Minneapolis Tribune. It is unknown whether anybody else took pictures of any of the tornadoes that day.

Recently discovered radar archives of this tornado outbreak are available at the bottom of this page.

U.S Weather Bureau Principal Assistant Joseph H Strub, Jr. (who would later become Meteorologist-in-Charge) assembled 36 slide photographs of damage from the May 6, 1965 tornadoes. Some time ago, these were discovered in a box of photos at the National Weather Service, and we are pleased to present them here (although two of them are too blurry to be included). Notes written by Mr. Strub accompanied the photos. The 36 slides and notes did not cover all six tornadoes.

In the weeks following the tornadoes, the slides were numbered according to the tornado that was believed to have inflicted the damage. Specifically, Mr. Strub labeled the first tornado as starting at 6:27 p.m., moving from Chanhassen to Deephaven to North Minneapolis and Fridley, and he numbered these pictures 101 through 109. He indicated tornado #2 as starting near Green Isle at 6:50 p.m., ending near Hamel, and he numbered them in the 200s. He listed the fifth tornado as starting at 8:10 p.m., stated it was the second tornado to hit Fridley, and labeled them in the 500s. The written summary contained in the May 1965 edition of Storm Data described these specific tracks and times, and also mentions three tornadoes as having hit Fridley. These images are available in the middle of this page.

This information was believed to be true through the balance of the 1960s, and even into the early 1970s. State Climatologist Earl Kuehnast, probably in 1970, produced a map showing tornado tracks in the 1960s, including three tornadoes moving across Fridley on May 6.

Forty years later, the most intriguing question concerns the 1973 correction to the original tornado data assigned in 1965. Tornado tracks and times were changed, and the number of fatalities was reduced from 14 to 13. Updated maps are also available.

Today, there is no information at the National Weather Service or State Climatology as to why the data were revised. Three hand-sketched maps showing the new data were uncovered from the files of Earl Kuehnast, and they are dated January and February 1973. Mr. Kuehnast even placed a large "X" across the 1965 version, clearly indicating he no longer believed the original map to be correct. Two maps published in 1975 show the revised information - these are in "Climate of Minnesota, Part VIII - Precipitation Patterns in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area and Surrounding Counties." and can be seen at http://climate.umn.edu/pdf/climate_of_minnesota/comVIII.pdf, pages 30 through 32.

Meteorologist-in-Charge Joe Strub apparently agreed with Kuehnast's 1973 revision, because official Storm Data records at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center were updated, and the following are now the official NOAA records:

Tornado #1 touched down at 6:08 p.m. CST just east of Cologne ( Carver County), was on the ground for 13 miles, and dissipated in the northwestern portion of Minnetrista ( Hennepin County). It was rated an F4, killed three people and injured 175.

Tornado #2 touched down at 6:27 p.m. CST near Lake Susan in Chanhassen ( Carver County) and traveled 7 miles straight north to Deephaven ( Hennepin County). It was rated an F4, was on the ground for 7 miles, but resulted in no injuries or fatalities.

Tornado #3 touched down at 6:34 p.m. CST about 3 miles east of New Auburn ( Sibley County) and moved to just west of Lester Prairie ( McLeod County). On the ground for 16 miles, it was rated an F3, but there were no injuries or fatalities.

Tornado #4 touched down at 6:43 p.m. CST about two miles east of Green Isle (Sibley County), was on the ground 11 miles, and dissipated about two miles southwest of Waconia (Carver County). It was rated an F2, killed one person, and injured 175.

Tornado #5 touched down at 7:06 p.m. CST in the southwesternmost corner of Fridley ( Anoka County), moved across the Northern Ordnance plant, and dissipated just northeast of Laddie Lake in Blaine ( Anoka County). It was on the ground for 7 miles, reached F4 intensity, killed three people and injured 175.

Tornado #6 touched down at 8:14 p.m. CST in Golden Valley, moved across north Minneapolis ( Hennepin County) and into Fridley ( Anoka County), then Mounds View ( Ramsey County), and finally dissipated just west of Centerville ( Anoka County). This was rated an F4, killed six people and injured 158, and was on the ground for 18 miles.


The following is an assortment of photos from the storms that occurred on May 6, 1965. The captions indicate the source of the photos. Clicking on the thumbnails will display a larger copy of the image.

Photos From Storms On May 6, 1965
Click for a larger image An areal view of the destruction along Louisa Drive in Mounds View. Picture courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, Photograph Collection.
Click for a larger image A picture believed to be from Fridley area showing tornado damage. Picture courtesy of Robert Lattery.
Click for a larger image National guard troops surveying damage in an unknown location in the Twin Cities. Picture courtesy of Robert Lattery.
Click for a larger image

A Minneapolis Tribune Photo (published on the front page of the newspaper on May 7, 1965) of the Fridley tornado.

* Photo is Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. Republished with permission of Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written consent of Star Tribune.

Click for a larger image A photo taken by Minnetonka resident H. B. Milligan of a tornado crossing to the west of the junction of Hwy 7 and 101 on May 6, 1965. It is believed that this was the tornado that touched down in Chanhassen at 6:27 p.m. and dissipated in Deephaven at 6:43 pm. The photo was published in July 1965 by the Minneapolis Tribune as part of the "Photos of the Week" feature, and photographers received a $5 award.

Following are descriptions of the numbered photos, taken from the summary compiled by Joe Strub in 1965, with additional details by Warning Coordination Meteorologist Todd Krause in 2005. Clicking on the thumbnail images will display a larger image.

NWS Damage Photos From Storms On May 6, 1965
Click for a larger image 101: Chanhassen 6:27 p.m. New home just completed, but nobody was living in it yet. Camera pointed north-northeast.
Click for a larger image 102: Chanhassen 6:27 p.m. Two blocks from #101, and at end of row of homes to the right of #101.
Click for a larger image 103: This photo is of Lake Lotus, in the far northeast corner of Chanhassen. Camera pointed west. Note the dark brown home in the left center was destroyed (partially hidden by the tree in the foreground), while the light colored home next door was okay.

104: Aerial view of Highway #101 north of Deephaven, between Cedar Point and Carsons Bay.

Click for a larger image 105: Aerial view. The plane was nearly over the border of Brooklyn Center and North Minneapolis, and was looking northeast toward Fridley and the Northern Ordnance plant. Structural damage at the plant was reported at over $2 million. The plant was out of operation for over a month. The four lane divided highway paralleling the Mississippi River is East River Road. The highway across the top of the picture was Highway 100, the forerunner of Interstate 694. The airfield no longer exists.
Click for a larger image 106: Aerial view of Northern Ordnance. The plane was nearly over the border of Brooklyn Center and North Minneapolis, and was looking east over the Mississippi River.
Click for a larger image 107: Another aerial view of Northern Ordnance. The plane was over Fridley, with the camera pointed southwest toward the plant and the Mississippi River.
Click for a larger image 108: Aerial view, looking north over Fridley. University Avenue extends from the top center to the bottom center of the photo, and Highway 100 (now I-694) extends from left to right across the bottom of the picture. The first tornado, 2/3 mile wide, took a north-northeast path from Northern Ordnance, to the intersection of University Avenue and Mississippi Street, to Osborne Road and Highway 65, and into Spring Lake Park. About one hour later, another tornado (1/2 mile wide) tracked northeast from Northern Ordnance, to the intersection of Jackson and Mississippi Streets, then to the heart of Mounds View. A detailed map from Earl Kuehnast shows both tornadoes crossed paths between Northern Ordnance and just southeast of the University/Mississippi intersection. The water tower is at Commons Park, which is at the northeast corner of the intersection of 7th Street NE and 61st Avenue NE in Fridley.
Click for a larger image 109: Aerial view, looking east over Fridley. Mississippi Street is the east-west cross street, extending from the tip of the plane's wing and extending to the top center of the photo. In the lower center of the photo is City Hall (the brown roof building between Mississippi Street and the small pond), which took a direct hit from the first tornado mentioned in picture #108. Hayes Elementary School, on the left center of the picture (that is, the north side of Mississippi Street), was 85% destroyed by the second tornado.
Click for a larger image 202: This tornado touched down in Sibley County, northeast of Green Isle, just north of Washington Lake. It moved to the Hamburg area in southwestern Carver County, where this photo was taken. One farmer in a barn was killed. The camera was pointed north.
Click for a larger image 203: This photo is from the farmstead near Hamburg, looking toward the barn.
Click for a larger image 204: Aerial view of the farm in photos 202 and 203.
Click for a larger image 205: Farmstead east of Hamburg and southeast of Norwood. The camera was pointed toward the north-northeast.
Click for a larger image 206: Farmhouse described in picture #205. Five people were in the basement; none were injured.
Click for a larger image 207: Farmhouse just southeast of that mentioned in #206.
Click for a larger image 208: Aerial view of Young America. The four lane divided road is Highway #212, which was brand new at the time. The old Highway 212 was just to its left. Norwood is not shown in the picture.
Click for a larger image 209: Aerial view of Highway #5, roughly halfway between Waconia and Young America.
Click for a larger image 210: Aerial view of Highway #5, also about halfway between Waconia and Young America.
Click for a larger image

211: Farmstead just north of Highway #5, two miles southwest of Waconia. The camera was pointed toward the north.

Click for a larger image 212: Same as #211. Camera pointed northeast. Donald Haines, the Minnesota State Climatologist, is in the white shirt. Note that there had been a house behind him. Four people reached the basement; all were injured, but none seriously.
Click for a larger image 213: Same as #211 and #212. This was photographed from Highway #5, looking northeast. Note the broken pine tree in the right center of the picture. This is the same tree that was behind Mr. Haines in picture #212.
Click for a larger image 214: Aerial photo of the southern portion of Mound. This is of Hardscrabble Point, at the south edge of Cooks Bay. The tornado was traveling east-northeast at the time.
Click for a larger image 216: Aerial view of Spring Park. The tornado then went through Navarre, just west of Wayzata, and ended near Hamel.
Click for a larger image 501: U.S. Weather Bureau personnel talking to a Fridley resident. This damage was produced by the first Fridley tornado, and was just north of Fridley Commons Park (the second tornado hit several blocks south of here). The third man from the left was Mr. Phillip Kenworthy, the Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Minneapolis/St. Paul office. During the tornado, there were two women in the blue car across the street. Neither was injured, though the windows were blown out. The street is oriented north-south.
Click for a larger image 502: Same area of the photo in #501.
Click for a larger image 503: Ball field at Fridley Commons Park
Click for a larger image 504: Trailer Park in Fridley. This is on the west side of Highway #65, between 73rd Avenue and Osborne Road. There was one fatality in the trailer park, as a baby girl was killed while being given a bath.
Click for a larger image 505: Looking east from the same location as in photo #504.
Click for a larger image 506: Looking north in the trailer park.
Click for a larger image 507: Walking through damage in the trailer park.
Click for a larger image 508: Aerial view over Fridley. Note Highway #65. The south end of the highway is at the lower left. The camera was pointed toward the northwest.
Click for a larger image 509: Aerial view over Fridley, taken from the east side of Highway #65 and looking west at the trailer park between 73rd Avenue and Osborne Road.
Click for a larger image 510: Aerial view over Fridley, photographed while over Highway #65 and looking southwest at the trailer park between 73rd Avenue and Osborne Road.
Click for a larger image 511: Aerial view photographed from just southwest of the trailer park shown in pictures #504-510. The camera was pointed south, looking toward City Hall, Hayes School, and Commons Park in the distance. Moore Lake is at the top left. The plane was nearly over Locke Park and Rice Creek, and most photos were taken at an elevation of about 2000 feet.

Radar footage from 1965 was recently discovered, and the 35mm film was converted to digital format, although there was no method available to us other than a somewhat crude technique.  So we present them "as is," with little indication of how distant the storm was from the radar, or without any map backgrounds.  It will take quite some time, but we hope some day to assign high resolution map backgrounds and possibly filter the radar echoes to highlight the most important storms.  This will allow us to study the event in greater detail and learn important lessons from this historic tornado outbreak.

The clock uses 24 hour timing, and is in Central Standard Time.  For example, 1800 would be 6:00 p.m. CST, and 2100 would be 9:00 p.m. CST.


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