With Severe Weather Awareness Week in full swing in South Dakota, this should serve as an emphasis on why it's important to be prepared, listen for warnings, and having a plan for severe weather such as tornadoes.

On May 30th, 1998 one of the deadliest tornado in South Dakota's recorded history touched town in the small communities of Spencer, South Dakota.

The video above (and I didn't know it existed) shows a tornado as it passes through Spencer from a few miles outside of town. According to the video credits, it was captured by William Reid, Keith Brown, Cheryl Chang and Martin Lisius.

The video also is marked with an historical first: it is the first violent-class tornado photographed on 35mm motion picture film.

Although when using the literal term "deadliest" the Spencer tornado did not cause the highest death toll.  According to the National Weather Service, on June 17, 1944, a series of many tornadoes touched down throughout northeast South Dakota, and a reported F5 killed 8 people in Wilmot, SD and was on the ground for 30 miles, traveling from north of Summit, SD to Beardsley, MN. On that same day, the Red Cross said there were 13 fatalities and 560 injuries reported throughout northeast South Dakota.

There were six fatalities in the Spencer tornado.

There was also debate on the actual strength rating of the tornado. While most folks said it had to be an F5, the National Weather Service rated it an F4.

UPON COMPLETION OF GROUND AND AERIAL DAMAGE SURVEYS CONDUCTED BY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE...THE TORNADO THAT HIT SPENCER SD ON SATURDAY NIGHT MAY 30 1998 HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY CLASSIFIED AS AN F4 ON THE FUJITA RATING SCALE. THIS RATING MEANS WIND SPEEDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE TORNADO HAVE BEEN ESTIMATED BETWEEN 207 AND 260 MPH CAUSING DEVASTATING DAMAGE. THIS ESTIMATION HAS BEEN SUPPORTED BY THE NATIONAL SEVERE STORMS LABORATORY'S PORTABLE DOPPLER RADAR THAT WAS ON LOCATION AS THE TORNADO APPROACHED SPENCER. - National Weather Service

Although Sioux Falls lies on the northern edge of "tornado alley" the video reveals the raw power of this deadly twister and is an even better reminder to have a fast passage to safety for your family - and a meeting place after the storm.


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