On the evening of May 30, 1998, the town of Spencer, South Dakota was nearly wiped off the map by one of the deadliest tornadoes in South Dakota history.

A storm produced an F4 tornado that nearly destroyed the small town just east of Mitchell, and killed six people. Winds from the twister were estimated to be between 207 and 260 miles per hour.

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Spencer tornado
Dave Wertheimer/KSTP via YouTube/Google Maps
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On that Saturday in 1998 the tornado, which had first touched down west of town, moved through Spencer. As it left town, the tornado continued southeast through farmland and ended near I-90.

Spencer tornado
Dave Wertheimer/KSTP via YouTube
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The Spencer tornado was one of five produced by the same supercell storm in just over an hour that night.

The Spencer, SD 1998 Tornado after-report from the National Weather Service:

  • The tornado killed six people
  • More than one-third of the town's 320 residents were injured, and
  • Most of the town's 190 buildings were destroyed
  • Damage was estimated at $18 million

You can see the damage in this report from KSTP-TV.

At approximately 8:40 p.m. (all times Central Daylight Time [CDT]) on Saturday, May 30, 1998, a violent tornado struck the small town of Spencer, South Dakota. Spencer is in extreme western McCook County, about 45 miles west-northwest of Sioux Falls. The tornado killed six people, injured more than one-third of the town's 320 residents, and destroyed most of the town's 190 buildings. Damage is estimated at $18 million. The Spencer tornado (rated F4 on the Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale), was one of five tornadoes, along a nearly continuous damage track approximately 30 miles long." -  National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls

 

MORE: Don’t Believe These Common Tornado Myths

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Have You Ever Explored the 'War Eagle Monument' on the South Dakota/Iowa Border?

Originally being from the Sioux City area, I grew up knowing about the War Eagle Monument perched on a bluff along I-29. There was at least one field trip for every kid in the area to the monument.

However, speaking with folks from Sioux Falls, they didn't seem to know what I was talking about. All they know about I-29 in Sioux City was that it was usually under construction.

When crossing into Iowa from South Dakota on I-29, look up!



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