Early-May 1965 tornado outbreak sequence
Tornado tracks through Minneapolis–Saint Paul on May 6
|Active as of||May 5–8, 1965|
|Max rating1||F5 tornado|
|Duration of tornado outbreak2||3 days, 7 hours, 2 minutes|
|Damage||Estimated $51 Million|
|Areas affected||Great Plains and Midwestern United States|
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale2Time from first tornado to last tornado
The early-May 1965 tornado outbreak sequence[nb 1][nb 2] was a major severe weather event that affected much of the Central United States on May 5–8, 1965. For four consecutive days, tornado outbreaks produced at least three significant (F2+) tornadoes each day, and at least two violent (F4–F5) tornadoes on three of the four days. The entire sequence generated 37 significant tornadoes, including at least nine violent tornadoes, one of which was rated F5. On May 5, two F4s struck Iowa, including a long-tracked tornado family that injured 11 people. On May 6, an outbreak of six strong tornadoes, four of them violent F4s, affected Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and has been nicknamed "The Longest Night", killing 13 people and causing major damages—at the time the most damaging single weather event in Minnesota history. Three of the six tornadoes occurred on the ground simultaneously, and two of them hit the section of Interstate 694 and University Avenue in the city of Fridley. Both Fridley tornadoes damaged 1,100 homes and destroyed about 425; total losses reached $14.5 million, $5 million of which was to the Fridley school system.
On May 7, three significant tornadoes hit portions of the Upper Midwest, and beginning early on May 8, a major tornado outbreak affected the Great Plains states, particularly in Nebraska and South Dakota. The outbreak on May 8 produced numerous significant, long-lived tornadoes, including at least three violent tornadoes, two of which were actually long-tracked tornado families. A very large F5 tornado struck Tripp County in South Dakota, and two major F4s tracked across parts of Greeley and Antelope Counties in Nebraska. One of the F4s struck the small village of Primrose, almost totally destroying the settlement, causing possible F5 damage, and killing four people. Additionally, a high-end F3 obliterated a farm in Gregory County, South Dakota, and may have been an F4 as well. Many of the individual tornadoes on May 8 moved north and northwest, an unusual trajectory for supercells in this part of the Great Plains. Many of the long-tracked tornadoes on this date, rather than single tornadoes, were probably tornado families like the two long-lived F4s.
Temperatures on May 6 were in the upper 70s °F with high dew points, which was considered to be unusual for early May in Minnesota. A strong low pressure area associated with an upper-level system moving in from the southwest and a nearby slow-moving cold front helped spark the storms. These storms formed as training supercells—an atmospheric phenomenon that is extremely rare in Minnesota. Because of the training, the same general areas from Sibley County through Carver and Hennepin and into northwestern Ramsey counties kept getting the brunt of these cells.
|All deaths were tornado-related|
|List of confirmed tornadoes|
|F2||Hartley to W of Sibley||O'Brien, Osceola||2030||21.8 miles (35.1 km)|
|F4||S of Rinard to NE of Callender||Calhoun, Webster||2215||9.9 miles (15.9 km)||An intense tornado damaged eight farms near Farnhamville before hitting the south side of Slifer. The tornado destroyed a church and a parsonage, both of which were swept away.|
|F4||Osage to N of Kendallville||Floyd, Howard, Winneshiek||0200||41.6 miles (66.9 km)||Two large farmhouses were leveled 3 miles (4.8 km) northwest of Kendallville, and about 28 farms were destroyed. All 11 injuries occurred in Mitchell County. The tornado was probably a family of several tornadoes, and it may have been continuous with the F3 tornado near Harmony, Minnesota, listed farther below.|
|F1||Near Elkton||Brookings||2045||34.7 miles (55.8 km)||Three farms were reported damaged.|
|F?||W of Leal||Barnes||2100||unknown||Brief touchdown.|
|F2||NE of Leonard to NW of Harwood||Cass||2315||33.8 miles (54.4 km)||This tornado family moved erratically northward, destroying barns, sheds, and other farm buildings. Seven farms were hit. At least two separate tornadoes, two hours apart, may have produced damage.|
|F0||W of Spofford||Kinney||2300||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F1||NE of Wingate||Runnels, Taylor||0300||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F1||SE of Sauk Centre||Stearns||2320||0.5 miles (0.80 km)|
|F2||NW of Alexandria to NW of Wolf Lake||Douglas, Otter Tail, Becker||2330||24.3 miles (39.1 km)||A tornado destroyed lakeside cottages near Lake Darling and badly damaged structures on eight farms as well. The tornado continued on to Big Toad Lake, where it destroyed a large, two-story "summer home." Five other homes and cottages sustained minor damage. A family of two separate tornadoes may have been involved.|
|F1||S of Gaylord to E of New Auburn||Sibley||2345||11.2 miles (18.0 km)|
|F3||S of Harmony to SE of Melrose, WI||Fillmore, Houston, Winona, La Crosse (WI)||0100||65.2 miles (104.9 km)||This tornado may have consisted of two separate tornadoes, with the path of the first ending, and the second beginning, in Houston County. Homes and barns were reported destroyed near Canton, Lenora, and Newburg. Farther along the path, more barns and a brick schoolhouse were also destroyed. As the tornado crossed into Wisconsin, it destroyed more buildings on several farms. A car in Wisconsin was moved 75 feet (23 m) as well.|
|F0||SE of Elgin||Wabasha||0225||0.3 miles (0.48 km)|
|F0||NW of Rushford Village||Winona||0300||0.2 miles (0.32 km)||A brief tornado destroyed two farms near Fremont. Rating disputed, ranked F2 by Grazulis.|
|F2||W of Le Roy to NE of Racine||Mower, Fillmore||0304||23.6 miles (38.0 km)||A tornado destroyed a barn and damaged 20 farms in its path.|
|F2||W of Grantsburg to W of Webster||Burnett||0215||14.3 miles (23.0 km)|
|F2||NW of Cumberland to S of Barronett||Barron||0530||4.5 miles (7.2 km)|
|Source: National Climatic Database Center|
|List of confirmed tornadoes|
|F4||NE of Cologne to N of Crystal Bay||Carver||0008||13 miles (21 km)||3 deaths – The first of four powerful F4 tornadoes touched down just east of Cologne in Carver County. The tornado struck the Island Park–Mound area, where it destroyed 17 homes, some of which were leveled. The tornado then struck and destroyed most of the Navarre community, where 16 homes were destroyed. The tornado also destroyed all barns and outbuildings on 30 farms. Homes were destroyed on 20 farms as well. According to a 1975 map, which contains the most revised data on the May 6 tornadoes, the tornado dissipated north of Crystal Bay.|
|F4||Chanhassen to S of Wayzata||Carver||0027||7 miles (11 km)||The second of the four F4 tornadoes—and the first of two to be photographed this day—touched down near Lake Susan in Chanhassen and traveled 7 miles (11 km) toward Deephaven in Hennepin County. The first damage was reported south of Chanhassen, where 30 homes were damaged or destroyed. The tornado traveled due north, causing damage to a lumberyard and a shopping center. The tornado then damaged 35 homes at Lotus Lake and damaged or destroyed another 50 at Christmas Lake. As the tornado continued into Deephaven, it destroyed 100 homes, some of which were completely leveled, including "large and expensive" homes. According to official sources, the tornado dissipated after hitting Deephaven, and only two tornadoes hit Fridley; however, Grazulis reports that the tornado turned northeast, continuing beyond Deephaven, passing just south of Medicine Lake, striking Golden Valley, and hitting Fridley at 7:10 p.m. (0110 UTC). Six homes were reportedly damaged in Golden Valley, "clocks stopped" in Fridley, and 25 airplanes were damaged or destroyed at Anoka County-Blaine Airport in Blaine. However, the official records end this tornado near Deephaven and only indicate that two tornadoes, not three, hit Fridley.|
|F3||E of New Auburn to NW of Lester Prairie||Sibley||0034||16 miles (26 km)||Tornado touched down about 3 mi (4.8 km) east of New Auburn in Sibley County and moved to just west of Lester Prairie in McLeod County. The tornado damaged or destroyed at least 25 farm buildings, as well as a church and a school, but there were no injuries or fatalities. Damages reached $1,000,000 (1965 USD).|
|F2||E of Green Isle to NE of Norwood Young America||Sibley||0043||11 miles (18 km)||1 death – Tornado touched down about 2 mi (3.2 km) east of Green Isle in Sibley County and was on the ground 11 mi (18 km). It dissipated about 2 mi (3.2 km) southwest of Waconia in Carver County. A farmer and his cattle were killed 3 mi (4.8 km) southeast of Hamburg. Photographs showed that nearby trees were debarked and shredded. The tornado was up to .75 mi (1.21 km) wide near Norwood Young America and Waconia. Three barns were reportedly destroyed southwest of Cologne at 7:15 p.m. (0115 UTC), but Grazulis counts the damage as being related to a second F2 tornado (not officially listed).|
|F4||SW of Columbia Heights to Fridley to N of Spring Lake Park||Hennepin, Anoka||0106||7 miles (11 km)||3 deaths – The first of at least two tornadoes to hit Fridley touched down in the southwesternmost corner of Fridley in Anoka County. It then moved across the Northern Ordnance industrial plant and continued to Osborne Road and Highway 65. At this point, the tornado was visually spectacular and, like the Deephaven tornado, was one of the two tornadoes to be photographed during the outbreak. The funnel then struck Fridley directly, hitting the main school and park complex, the city hall, and a trailer court. 300 people were attending an evening program in Fridley Junior High when the tornado struck, but only a single child was injured. The tornado eventually struck hundreds of homes in Fridley before continuing north-northeast into Spring Lake Park. There, the tornado was at its greatest intensity, destroying 150 homes and leveling some of them. 75% of all the businesses in Spring Lake Park were reported destroyed, and 900 people in the town were said to be homeless. 175 people were injured. The tornado dissipated just northeast of Laddie Lake in Blaine in Anoka County.|
|F4||Golden Valley to Fridley to Lino Lakes||Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey||0214||18 miles (29 km)||6 deaths – The last and deadliest violent tornado of the day touched down in Golden Valley in Hennepin County and moved across north Minneapolis, Fridley in Anoka County, and Mounds View in Ramsey County before dissipating just west of Centerville in Anoka County. Like the previous event, this tornado also struck the Northern Ordnance industrial plant. Total damage from the two tornadoes at the Northern Ordnance plant reached $2 million (1965 USD) in damage, shutting down the plant for more than one month. Next, the tornado damaged 25 homes and eight businesses when it hit Golden Valley. The tornado then became the second of the day to hit Fridley, and even struck the same trailer park in Fridley hit by the previous tornado. The tornado also destroyed 85% of an elementary school. In Fridley, some homes were hit more than once by multiple tornadoes. As it continued into Mounds View, the tornado completely leveled numerous homes, killing six people. In all, 46 homes in Mounds View were destroyed, and losses reached about $1 million (1965 USD). 158 people were injured.|
|F2||NW of Loyal||Kingfisher||0000||0.1 miles (0.16 km)||A brief touchdown destroyed a barn, a shop, a granary, and a shed. It also damaged four homes and two "combines."|
|F2||SE of Dodson, TX, to W of Granite, OK||Harmon, Greer||0050||31.3 miles (50.4 km)||This tornado may have begun in Texas. It damaged or destroyed at least six homes, 10 barns, a gin, a store, a church, and a school.|
|F1||SE of Canton||Blaine||0100||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F0||Oakwood||Dewey||0100||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F1||Dewey||Washington||0300||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F0||E of Newcastle||Dixon||0145||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|Source: National Climatic Database Center|
|List of confirmed tornadoes|
|F2||S of Shell Lake||Washburn||1430||1 mile (1.6 km)||A brief tornado unroofed a school in which 300 students sheltered, but none were hurt.|
|F?||NE of Lake Andes||Charles Mix||1830||unknown|
|F0||S of Garden City||Finney||2200||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F2||N of Pierceville||Finney||2200||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F2||N of Cimarron||Finney||2200||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F0||SW of Kenyon||Le Seur||0010||0.5 miles (0.80 km)|
|F0||Arnett||Ellis||0050||0.8 miles (1.3 km)|
|F0||S of Wheeler||Wheeler||0050||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|Source: National Climatic Database Center|
|List of confirmed tornadoes|
|F2||N of Nunn||Weld||0900||1 mile (1.6 km)||A brief touchdown caused damage to farm structures, equipment, and trees.|
|F1||N of Waukesha||Waukesha||1915||2 miles (3.2 km)|
|F0||SE of Randlett||Cotton||2000||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F1||SW of Barnsdall||Osage||2200||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F1||N of Stidham||McIntosh||0300||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F0||S of Marietta||Love||0310||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F?||SW of Independence||Montgomery||2115||1 mile (1.6 km)||A tornado caused $4,000 (1965 USD) in damage near the Independence Municipal Airport.|
|F?||N of Girard||Crawford||2315||unknown||Brief touchdown.|
|F3||N of Saint Michael to SW of Farwell||Howard||2200||10.2 miles (16.4 km)||A tornado unroofed some homes and barns and passed northwest of Boelus.|
|F4||NW of Farwell to Orchard||Howard, Greeley, Wheeler, Antelope,||2225||78.9 miles (127.0 km)||This long-tracked tornado was likely a family of multiple violent tornadoes. The tornado destroyed numerous farms, many of which were entirely leveled. Two people sheltering in a basement north of Greeley may have been injured, but these injuries are not listed officially.|
|F2||SE of Long Pine to NW of Mills||Rock, Keya Paha||2230||44.9 miles (72.3 km)||A long-lived tornado leveled a farmhouse and may have injured a man fleeing in a pickup truck. The tornado also destroyed buildings on "at least a dozen" farms northwest of Newport. This event may have been two separate tornadoes, one 4 mi (6.4 km) east of Bassett and another northwest of Newport. Rating disputed, ranked F3 by Grazulis.|
|F2||E of Johnstown||Brown, Keya Paha||2230||9 miles (14 km)||A strong tornado destroyed three homes on at least seven ranches, along with other structures. Vehicles were thrown up to .5 mi (0.80 km) from where they originated. According to Grazulis, this tornado caused near-F4 damage to ranches 6 mi (9.7 km) northwest of Ainsworth, though the official rating is only F2. The tornado may have stayed on the ground as far as Wewela, South Dakota, and the parent storm eventually produced an F5 tornado near Colome in South Dakota.|
|F3||Hebron to E of Cordova||Thayer, Fillmore, Saline, Seward||2240||40.1 miles (64.5 km)||A long-lived tornado leveled a barn 3 mi (4.8 km) east of Ohiowa. Several farms were reportedly destroyed as well.|
|F3||SW of Chambers to Saratoga||Holt||2300||44.8 miles (72.1 km)||A long-tracked tornado destroyed and swept away many barns. A car was thrown 200 yd (180 m), and ranches were completely destroyed.|
|F1||Stapleton to S of Valentine||Logan, Thomas, Cherry||2300||89.8 miles (144.5 km)||A long-lived tornado did "major damage" near Thedford, destroying at least one barn. Rating disputed, ranked F2 by Grazulis.|
|F1||N of Eagle||Cass||2300||0.1 miles (0.16 km)||Brief touchdown reported.|
|F4||N of Wood River to Wausa||Hall, Greeley, Boone, Antelope, Cedar||2330||125.7 miles (202.3 km)||4 deaths – This long-lived family of violent tornadoes destroyed 90% of the village of Primrose. The tornado was reported to have had two funnels as it hit Primrose. Homes were swept from their foundations, and the damage swath was 300 yd (270 m) wide. Tree damage in the village was severe. Vehicles were thrown hundreds of yards, and there may have been F5 damage to buildings as well. Cars were carried for 400 yd (370 m), and a truck body was carried and rolled for 2 mi (3.2 km). 53 people were injured, and four were dead at Primrose.|
|F2||E of Ainsworth||Brown, Keya Paha||2330||4.1 miles (6.6 km)||A tornado passed east of Ainsworth.|
|F1||W of Hampton||Hamilton||2330||0.1 miles (0.16 km)||Brief touchdown occurred between Aurora and Hampton.|
|F1||N of Phillips to NE of Chapman||Hamilton||2335||7.2 miles (11.6 km)||A tornado destroyed all the buildings except the farmhouse on a farm. Rating disputed, ranked F2 by Grazulis.|
|F0||W of Spencer||Boyd||0000||0.1 miles (0.16 km)||Brief touchdown witnessed.|
|F2||Columbus to W of Clarkson||Platte, Colfax||0000||24 miles (39 km)||A tornado skipped along and destroyed structures on several farms.|
|F1||E of Winside to Dakota City||Wayne, Dixon, Dakota||0030||41.5 miles (66.8 km)||A skipping tornado caused mostly minor damage, but produced major damage to a farm northeast of Wayne.|
|F?||N of Fort Thompson||Buffalo||2200||unknown|
|F5||E of Wewela to NE of Winner||Tripp||2315||30.1 miles (48.4 km)||See section on this tornado. This huge tornado, about 1 mi (1.6 km) wide, damaged 25 farms, destroyed seven farms, and completely swept away three of them near Gregory.|
|F2||SW of Colome||Tripp||2323||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F3||SW of Burke||Gregory||0000||1.5 miles (2.4 km)||A brief tornado moved northwest and destroyed all buildings on a farm, including two homes, a concrete barn, and a wooden barn. Vehicles and machinery were mangled into unrecognizable shapes. Rating disputed, ranked F4 by Grazulis.|
|F2||SE of Howard||Miner||0030||3.3 miles (5.3 km)||Moved northwest, north of Canova. Some farm structures were damaged, and cattle were killed.|
|F1||SE of Onida||Sully||0030||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F2||W of Baltic to NE of Colton||Clay||0100||4.5 miles (7.2 km)||Barns and concrete silos were destroyed on three farms.|
|F2||SW of Pukwana||Brule||0100||4.3 miles (6.9 km)||A tornado moved northwest, destroying newly built barns on two farms, along with several silos.|
|F0||NW of Gettysburg||Potter||0100||0.1 miles (0.16 km)||Brief touchdown over open country.|
|F?||NW of Oahe Dam||Stanley||0200||unknown|
|F0||SW of Akaska||Potter||0332||0.1 miles (0.16 km)|
|F?||SE of Timber Lake||Dewey||0425||unknown|
|F?||SW of Mobridge||Corson||0435||unknown|
|F2||SE of Fort Smith||0230||Sebastian||5.1 miles (8.2 km)||A tornado destroyed motel cabins and tore roofs and walls from homes. Business buildings sustained damage on seven farms.|
|Source: National Climatic Database Center|
Fridley, Minnesota (two tornadoes)
Two tornadoes touched down in Fridley, just over an hour apart. In all, six people were killed in the Fridley tornadoes and over 180 were injured. Over 450 homes were destroyed in Fridley, and neighboring Mounds View also sustained heavy damage. A man who called WCCO radio after the first Fridley tornado claimed on air that he had been in his car when the tornado hit and that the tornado blew out his car windows. Although he is widely believed to have been killed by the second Fridley twister later that night (which did kill a 26-year-old man with a similar name), the caller was actually a teacher at Fridley Junior High School who survived. The tornado also damaged the sign adorning the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights. In all, both Fridley tornadoes damaged 1,100 homes and destroyed about 425; total losses reached $14.5 million, $5 million of which was to the Fridley school system. Photographs for the earlier Deephaven and second Fridley tornado were published in the Minneapolis Tribune (now Star Tribune) newspaper. Early radar images showed the supercells as they moved through the area.
Gregory, South Dakota
On May 8th, an F5 tornado tore through the town of Gregory, South Dakota, the only F5 in South Dakota. The tornado was a mile wide, the tornado destroyed 7 farms, 3 were swept away. The tornado caused no deaths, so this tornado was like a miracle. The tornado was "a full fledged F-5 tornado, the finger of God". This tornado was long-lived.
The outbreak in Minnesota on May 6 was voted a tie by the Minnesota Climatology Office for the "fifth most significant Minnesota Weather Event of the 20th Century" with the 1965 Mississippi & Minnesota River Flooding. Considering this outbreak occurred just three weeks after the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, quick and successful warnings from the U.S. Weather Bureau and transmission from WCCO Radio kept the death toll relatively low. This was also the first time in Minnesota state history where civil defense sirens were used for severe weather purposes.
- Lattery, Robert. "Six Deadly Twisters". Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "Summary of May 6, 1965 Tornado Outbreak". Chanhassen, Minnesota: National Weather Service. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Schneider, Russell S.; Harold E. Brooks; Joseph T. Schaefer. "Tornado Outbreak Day Sequences: Historic Events and Climatology (1875-2003)" (PDF). Norman, Oklahoma: Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Kuehnast, E. L.; Baker, D. G.; Enz, J. W. (1975). Climate of Minnesota, Part VIII -- Precipitation Patterns in the Minneapolis–St. Paul Metropolitan Area and Surrounding Counties (Technical report). University of Minnesota. 301.
- Grazulis, Significant Tornadoes, 1073.
- "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Storm Data (Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce) 7 (5). May 1965.
- "The May 6, 1965 Tornadoes". NWS Twin Cities. NOAA. May 13, 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
- Grazulis, Significant Tornadoes, 1074.
- "Tornadoes belt Nebraska". The Tuscaloosa News. The Associated Press. May 9, 1965. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "Four Dead In Twister". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. The Associated Press. May 10, 1965. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "Tornado Death Toll Reaches 4 At Primrose". Lewiston Morning Tribune. The Associated Press. May 10, 1965. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (2001). F5-F6 Tornadoes. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project.
- "Significant Minnesota Weather Events of the 20th Century". St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Climatology Working Group. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
- — (2003). The Tornado: Nature’s Ultimate Windstorm. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3538-0.
- An outbreak is generally defined as a group of at least six tornadoes (the number sometimes varies slightly according to local climatology) with no more than a six-hour gap between individual tornadoes. An outbreak sequence, prior to (after) modern records that began in 1950, is defined as, at most, two (one) consecutive days without at least one significant (F2 or stronger) tornado.
- All damage totals are in 1965 United States dollars unless otherwise noted.
- May 6, 1965 Tornado Outbreak (NWS Twin Cities, MN)
- Radiotapes.com Aircheck recordings of WCCO Radio's tornado coverage from May 6, 1965.
- 8mm Home Video of May 6, 1965 Fridley, MN Tornado Damage YouTube Video.