Today is the 61st Anniversary of the Fargo F5 Tornado
On June 20, 1957, a violent and deadly F5 tornado ripped through Fargo, ND. An F5 is the highest intensity a tornado can reach on the Fujita Scale.
According to the National Weather Service, the Fargo F5 tornado traveled along a path 9 miles long and up to 700 feet wide. The supercell lasted for more than six hours and produced tornadoes for over four hours.
At the time of the storm, conventional radar data did not exist, but a military radar site more than 200 miles south of Fargo measured the top of the thunderstorm to be an estimated 65,000 to 75,000 feet.
The storm scattered debris as far away as Rochert, MN, which is 55 miles from Fargo. The U.S. Weather Bureau issued warnings for the tornado that were broadcast by local radio and television stations. The warnings caused many people to evacuate the city. Ray Jensen was the warning meteorologist on duty at the Weather Bureau office in Fargo that day. Jensen gave a detailed personal account of how the public was warned of the tornadic storm.
Dr. Ted Fujita, who later created the Fujita scale in 1971, studied the storm and would also coin the terms 'wall cloud', 'tail cloud', and 'collar cloud', upon studying the Fargo F5 storm. The Fargo F5 of 1957 is said to have impacted tornado science and enhance the effectiveness of timely warnings.
The deadly tornado on that night in 1957 killed 12 and injured over 150 people. The property damage cost $20 million at the time, which today would be $174 million. The supercell storm that started that F5 storm was said to generate 25 times the energy of an atomic bomb, according to scientists. Maximum wind speeds of the Fargo F5 tornado were estimated at 275 miles per hour.
While the storm was a tragedy for those in Fargo 61 years ago, it is also known as a historical event in meteorological history.