WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — More than two dozen people were hurt, at least three critically, when a tornado whipped through a northwestern North Dakota city overnight, overturning recreational vehicles, officials said Tuesday.
The storm moved through Watford City shortly after midnight, hitting an RV park the hardest, according to sheriff's officials. About 20 of the 28 people injured were staying at the Prairie View RV Park where high winds overturned some campers and damaged mobile homes.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Paul Martin classified the tornado as an EF2, which is defined by winds speeds between 111 and 135 mph. He said wind speeds reached 127 mph in Watford City.
Clifford Bowden, 37, was in his recreational vehicle when the storm struck.
"My dog was with me and the next thing you knew the storm picked up my camper and slammed it on the ground. It felt like we were weightless," Bowden said.
He estimated 70 of several hundred recreational vehicles at the park were damaged.
"It was scary. I feel like I'm a pretty tough guy. But, this storm, it made me shake uncontrollably," Bowden said.
At least three people suffered critical injuries, according to McKenzie County's emergency manager, Karolin Jappe.
"There's more devastation than a tornado four years ago. RVs flipped over. Trucks underneath RVs," Jappe said.
McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger says his house half a mile from the park suffered siding and shingle damage.
"It's a tornado scene," Schwartzenberger said. "It went through and devastated an entire community down there. I'm devastated myself at what has happened. I feel for the families."
Schwartzenberger said the park residents would be allowed back briefly Tuesday afternoon to collect their belongings. He said the park would then be shut down and that cleanup operations would resume Wednesday morning.
About 150 people, including Bowden, are staying at the Watford City Civic Center where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford has arrived in Watford City, where he was once mayor and where he still has a home, according to Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Burgum.