Tornado Strikes Dubois on May 28

At approximately 3:08 PM on Wednesday May 28, 2008, a weak tornado briefly touched down in Dubois, damaging a public restroom facility at 1st and Marciana and snapping the 8x8 inch sign post of Wind River Gear.  Several vehicles and buildings sustained minor damage when the roof debris was scattered to the east.  Some debris also broke a window in a nearby home; a woman in the home reportedly was injured on the leg from the broken glass.  The damage and debris was confined to a very small area of Dubois.

Eyewitnesses to the event said that the strong winds were over in a matter of seconds.  The tornado was also accompanied by half inch hail and heavy rain.  The National Weather Service in Riverton was first notified of the event when the Fremont County Sheriffs Office called at approximately 3:12 PM reporting damage in the Dubois area.  At the time, a line of weak thunderstorms was draped across the Dubois area in a NNE to SSW direction.  Overall weak storm rotation could be seen using the velocity data from the Riverton Doppler radar.  However, at that distance from the radar, small scale low-level features such as this tornado are not directly indicated.  The National Weather Service had issued a Special Weather Statement for the area at 2:11 PM for the area, letting the public know that the thunderstorms were capable of producing small hail, brief heavy rain, gusty winds up to 40 mph, and dangerous lightning.  The Special Weather Statement was reissued again at 3:09 PM.  Several phone calls were received and placed to local residents over the next hour to better ascertain the extent of the damage.

A local storm damage survey team from the NWS office in Riverton traveled to Dubois on Thursday May 29, 2008 to inspect the damage and speak with local residents.  The team consisted of Brett McDonald (Science and Operations Officer) and Dan Berc (Meteorologist Intern).  The team spoke with employees and contractors of Wind River Gear, Saddle Tramps, and the Dubois Frontier.  Information was also obtained the day prior from Gary Keimig, a Dubois area volunteer cooperative weather observer.  The Dubois Frontier also shared information obtained from a local school teacher who was watching the developing situation about a half mile away with her class.  They reported seeing some rotation with the storm and mini funnel clouds trying to develop at the could base before the tornado occurred.

Based upon the accounts and the damage, the NWS Riverton survey team concluded that a brief tornado did indeed touch down in Dubois.  The type of damage to the restroom facility, resultant dispersal of the debris, and extremely localized damage indicated that a circulation did indeed occur.  While microburst winds can cause similar damage to a weak tornado, it was determined that a microburst did not occur based upon the damage pattern and other weather conditions at the time.  The tornado has been rated EF0 on the Enhanced Fujita rating scale.

The following image is of the damaged restroom facility in Dubois (courtesy of the Dubois Frontier):

Damaged public restroom in Dubois WY on May 28, 2008

The following image is the broken Wind River Gear sign post (by Dan Berc, National Weather Service Riverton, WY):

Damaged sign post at Wind River Gear in Dubois on May 28, 2008

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