North Dakota Tornado Kills Newborn, Injures Dozens

Eric Zerkel
Published: July 11, 2018

A tornado packing winds up to 127 mph ripped through a North Dakota recreational vehicle park overnight Monday, destroying or damaging hundreds of structures, killing an newborn and injuring dozens, some critically. 

The National Weather Service in Bismarck said the tornado was an EF2 after assessing damage at the Prairie View RV Park in Watford City, North Dakota. That damage included 122 structures "completely destroyed" and 199 others sustaining some form of damage, the McKenzie County Sheriff's Office said.

Officials said 28 people were injured after the tornado hit just after midnight. Nine of the 28 were said to be critically injured, with some flown as far away as Fargo to receive treatment, KFGO reports.

One of those injured was a 7-day-old infant boy, who later died from injuries sustained in the tornado after being transferred to a hospital with advanced life support services. The boy's family has not released his name at this time. 

The boy's death is only the fourth tornado-related death in the United States so far in 2018 and the first since April 13th. There were no tornado-related fatalities in May and June, the two most active and notorious months for tornadoes in the U.S. 

Karolin Jappe, the McKenzie County Emergency Manager, told the Associated Press that Prairie View was "an oversized RV park on steroids," a byproduct of the need for housing due to the shale oil boom in North Dakota and Watford City. 

RVs and trailers are some of the worst forms of shelter during a severe storm, particularly a tornado. 

"The tornado struck in the overnight hours, and manufactured homes and RV trailers didn't stand a chance against wind estimated up to 127 mph from the EF2 tornado," said senior meteorologist Jon Erdman.

Residents of Prairie View described being sent airborne in their homes by the tornado. 

"My dog was with me and the next thing you knew the storm picked up my camper and slammed it on the ground. It felt like we were weightless," resident Clifford Bowen said.

"We're going to die. That's what I thought. We're going to die," resident Krystal Lapp said. "[We felt the] house rock and shake, and felt the house go up and felt it slam and then we rolled about three times." 

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Lieutenant Gov. Brent Sanford both toured the destruction Tuesday. Sanford, the former mayor of Watford City, called the damage "mind-boggling".

"The extent of the damage here is devastating and mindboggling, with RVs utterly flattened and destroyed," Sanford told KXMB. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and displaced by this tornado."

Residents were allowed to return to the scene to collect belongings Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Another EF2 tornado hit Watford City in 2014, injuring nine oil workers. 

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