Do you remember what you were doing near the end of May 1998? I had just gotten married and was in Omaha for my honeymoon. But a few hundred miles north of me a small South Dakota town was getting nearly whipped off the map.

On the evening of May 30, 1998, the town of Spencer, South Dakota was devastated 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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MORE: Tornado Tuesday - Remembering the Day Dozens Of Twisters Ripped Through South Dakota

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.

The Spencer tornado was one of five produced by the same supercell storm in just over an hour that night.

MORE: Severe Weather in South Dakota – Don’t Believe These 5 Common Tornado Myths

The Spencer, SD 1998 Tornado according to 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

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." -  National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls

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

Where Are You Most Likely to Encounter a Tornado in South Dakota?

The folks at Stacker crunched the numbers to find the top 10 South Dakota counties likely to see tornados.

NOTE: "Since counties can vary in size, they are ranked by the number of tornadoes per 100 square miles." - Stacker

Gallery Credit: Ben Kuhns


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