Suspected tornado sweeps through northeastern Montana, destroys farms | Local News
A severe thunderstorm swept through northern Valley County Monday evening, possibly generating a tornado and high winds that ripped through homes, buildings and destroyed farm equipment, power lines and crops in and around the small Hi-Line farming community of Glentana.
Local weather equipment said winds reached 109mph and some buildings in Glentana were completely destroyed while others were left without roofs or wall sections, according to witnesses and the National Weather Service in Glasgow.
The storm had been smoldering for hours before generating a tornado, said meteorologist Jacob Zanker in Glasgow. While officials are still determining whether or not the storm generated a tornado, Zanker said the current rough estimate is that a severe windstorm lasted about 10 minutes.
The storm came in from the southwest and traveled northeast. Although current reports suggest the storm caused a tornado, experts are still uncertain, Zanker said. Although it is currently unknown how far the damage was caused, reports of storm destruction extend for several miles.
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Sean Heavey, a Glasgow-based storm chaser and professional photographer, said he had been tracking the storm for 3 p.m. as it developed in the remote northeast corner of Montana.
As the weather deteriorated, he saw a wall of tumbleweeds flying across the road about four feet in the air. The rain hit his car faster than his windshield wipers could clear it, and his car door was nearly ripped off its hinges when he got out to take a photo of the clouds sweeping across the prairie .
Heavey later said he spoke to people at the heart of the damage while he captured the scenes. He heard of a woman whose roof was ripped off her house as she ran down the stairs. A man allegedly hid under a truck before it started rolling, and he had to run to a combine to hide instead.
Some farmers have reported parts of their equipment thrown away half a mile from their homes. Footage of the destruction shows farms and buildings ripped to pieces.
Heavey said he feels for farmers, especially as harvest season approaches and the winter ahead. However, he said he had no doubts they would bounce back. Some locals were already hosting a potluck dinner at a nearby Catholic church, running on generators as long as the power was out, he said. Others provide accommodation for those who have lost their homes, he added of the close-knit community.
“The tenacity of the people who live in this part of the state is insane,” Heavey said.
An official storm report is not available, but Zanker said the National Weather Service in Glasgow plans to release details as early as Wednesday morning.