If you think tornadoes cannot happen in the Black Hills ... think again.
Tuesday’s storm uprooted and broke thousands of trees on private and public property. A National Weather Service damage survey says the tornado’s wake stretches over 2½ miles in the Silver City area near Pactola Reservoir.
Although several residential buildings suffered damage, no injuries or deaths occurred.
A relieved Tom Strand stood outside his home of 19 years on Wednesday, remembering how Tuesday’s televised storm weather warning quickly sent some members of his family scurrying for shelter.
“My wife went to the bathtub, the dog hid under the bed and I stood staring out the window at the trees going crazy,” he said.
Storm experts say the Strands and others in the Silver City area experienced storm winds from 85 to 110 miles per hour.
Strand says he could not hear breaking and falling trees because of the tornado’s freight train roar – maybe three freight trains – whipping through his neighborhood. One falling tree stabbed the roof of an uphill neighbor’s house and stuck near where the owner was talking on phone in a second-floor room.
The extensive forest damage, resembling remnants from a food blender, comes on top of trees broken and dropped by October’s blizzard or killed earlier by mountain pine beetles.
John Clark of Silver City, a retired Forest Service worker, hiked and four-wheeled in parts of the damage area and came away astounded.
“The biggest destruction I’ve seen so far is right here,” he said near a metal driveway gate crushed by fallen trees a quarter-mile from Strand’s home.
Gesturing toward a ridge above Silver City, Clark added, "(The damage is) pretty widespread. There’s a lot of devastation in Gorman Gulch, all the way to Rapid Creek.”