The NOAA’s National Weather Service Grand Forks Storm Damage Assessment Team has rated the tornado which struck Northwood North Dakota on Sunday August 26, between 8:45 and 8:50 pm, as an EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale. Damage in the northeastern corner of the community indicated top wind speeds of up to 170 mph, which is in the lower end of the EF4 scale.
Nearly all of the community of Northwood was impacted by the tornado which reached an impressive width of about eight tenths of a mile as it pushed through town. Total length of the tornado was estimated to be 5 miles, beginning 2miles west southwest of town, and extending 2 miles east northeast of town.
The main residential areas and business areas of the town received widespread EF2 to EF3 damage, with peak winds of 120-150 mph. The most intense damage was likely in the northeast corner of town where open space allowed the tornado to scour to ground level, flattening fields and wrapping and carrying debris and heavy projectiles in wide arching patterns.
The most significant damage occurred on the northeast edge of the tornado track, where the Agvise Laboratories and Gabriel Construction buildings were a total loss. In addition, cars and trucks became projectiles and were carried up to one half mile into corn and bean fields which were scoured to the ground. Trucks and vehicles from these locations are still missing.
Previous to this event, the most recent EF4 tornado in North Dakota had been the July 18th, 2004, tornado which struck the far southwest corner of Barnes County, near the towns of Marion and Litchville.
It is common to still have tornadoes in late August, September, and even October in North Dakota. Multiple tornadoes struck near Bismarck back on November 1st of 2000. However, the Northwood tornado is the latest that a tornado of EF4 intensity has struck anywhere in the state. Previous to this event, the latest EF4 tornado was near Medina, on August 11, 2002.
Unfortunately, the Northwood tornado has resulted in one fatality. The most tornado fatalities ever to occur in our eastern North Dakota warning area (and in the State of North Dakota) were the 12 deaths attributed to the Fargo June 20, 1957, tornado. More recently there was 1 death in Cavalier County ND in 1966. In northwest Minnesota , 2 fatalities occurred in Polk County in 1975 and 1 fatality occurred in 1978. Most recently, 1 tornado fatality occurred in Ottertail County MN in 1987. However, 54 fatalities are attributed to the tornado which struck Fergus Falls MN (in Ottertail County) back on June 22, 1919.
For more information please contact NOAA’s NWS Office in Grand Forks at 701.772.0720