A violent Eastern Montana storm front launched a tornado in Wibaux and delivered large hail and 80 mph winds to a more-than-100-mile area Thursday evening.
Telephone poles tipped in Malta. Trees were uprooted in Opheim, and windows broke in Circle as a series of small storms coalesced into two damaging tempests.
Meteorologist Ted Jamba said the northernmost storm gathered near Malta late in the afternoon, churning up wind gusts of more than 60 mph. The storm intensified as it moved northeast toward Glasgow and Opheim. By the time the storm reached Nashua its was blowing at 80 mph. It toppled a tree in Glasgow and produced penny-sized hail in Glentana. In Peerless, the storm flattened a barn with 79 mph winds.
At roughly the same time, a second storm sparked by the same front kicked up south of Jordan.
“The storm in southwest Garfield County, just south of Jordan, went through Circle, went through Wibaux and generated a tornado,” Jamba said. “Believe it or not, it was a farm in Dawson County, 16 miles northeast of Lindsey that was hit the worst. Its pea crop was decimated by quarter-sized hail.”
In McCone County, Erin Haynie, deputy disaster and emergency services coordinator, said a narrow band of hail pounded the Circle area. There were some windows broken, but the damage was still being assessed Friday.
“Two miles east of Circle, we had quite a bit of hail, large hail a quarter to a half dollar in size,” Haynie said. However, north of town storm activity was minimal.
Haynie said the hail lasted about a half hour. Most of the hail was pea-sized.
Near Wibaux, Pat Banister watched from her porch as the long wall cloud rolled toward her family farm. The storm appeared to stretch all the way to Fallon, some 45 miles away.
“The head of it, which was way north of us, started turning around and heading south,” Banister said. “When it did that, that’s when it started looking bad.”
A 57 mph wind gust hit Banister, nearly knocking her off her porch. She retreated to the basement with her husband.
It was about 8 p.m. Roughly four miles south of Wibaux a tornado touched down in a sparsely populated area.
As the storm traveled into North Dakota, it dissipated, according to the National Weather Service.
Jamba said the weekend forecast for the area called for milder conditions with a fire weather watch because of wind and lower humidity.