Although the calendar says August, the severe weather season is still going strong across northeastern Montana.
Quite a few storms moved from west to east across Valley County on Monday afternoon. They brought 40 mph wind and half-inch hail to Hinsdale. Southeast of Baylor, 1-inch hail was reported, along with more than an inch of rain. More than an inch of rain down on Lustre within 40 minutes, along with the hail. Moving on to Roosevelt County, a storm pounded an area north of Poplar with 1.75 inches of rain in just 12 minutes, along with damaging wind and hail.
There were reports of severe crop damage, but according to Tanja Fransen, warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS in Glasgow, there is not a good written record of the total losses. She said the damage from Roosevelt County to Richland County has been “pretty significant.” Early in July a big hail storm in Garfield, McCone and Dawson counties cut a swath 15 miles wide and 115 miles long.
“It’s not been a good year,” she said. “It’s kind of weird. It’s been cool and we usually don’t get these storms unless it’s in the 90s. For the last two weeks, in a line from Glendive to Glasgow and west to Havre, we’ve had 200 to 400 percent of normal rainfall, between 1 and 3 inches. That’s a lot of moisture. You need it to feed the thunderstorms. It’s triggering these things like crazy.”
Fransen said for the last month there has been a little hole over Glasgow that has been below normal in precipitation, and the storms have gone around.
While severe thunderstorms can produce wind gusts in excess of 58 mph and large hail greater than 1 inch in diameter, some storms can be even produce tornadoes. On Monday, July 15, one such storm tracked through Roosevelt County.
The severe thunderstorm originated in Valley County but maintained a long track as it produced a tornado that dissipated and reformed at least a couple of times as it tracked through Roosevelt County.
The NWS in Glasgow conducted a survey to learn more about the storm and the path of the tornado to determine its magnitude as well as ascertain whether there was any damage. This did occur in a mostly rural area but it is a reminder that tornadoes can sometimes occur even here across northeast Montana.
It was rated as an EF-2 tornado with estimated maximum wind speeds to 120 mph, based on damage to power poles in the area. It was thought to have begun around 3:45 p.m. and dissipated fully at 4:56 p.m. It traveled nearly 22 miles and was up to a quarter mile wide.
While there was some damage to trees, power poles and a farm about 10 miles east of Highway 13, no one was reported injured. There were many eye witnesses, and several people were able to snap some spectacular photos of the tornado. To see the report with full details about the storm survey, visit: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/ggw/pdf/Roosevelt%20County%20Tornado%20Event%20Summary.pdf.
Nine days later, storms bypassed Glasgow but struck both north and south of town. On July 24, hail battered fields from east of St. Marie to the Larslan area, flattening crops nearing the harvest stage. There was also a southern path from Saco, Hinsdale and Tampico through Fort Peck, Frazer and Oswego.