South Dakota tractor taken by tornado found in Montana

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Doug Davis finally found his tractor that had been swooped up by a tornado from his ranch in northwest South Dakota. Sort of.

“The tractor is mostly scattered in Montana,” he told the Capital Journal on Monday night.

The tornado came from the southwest on Thursday night, June 28, one of many that twisted their ways across Carter County, Montana, and Harding County, South Dakota.

“It was like someone threw the gate open and they just came running out,” said Kathy Glines, emergency manager for Harding County. “There were at least five twisters.”

The National Weather Service office in Rapid City reported that four tornadoes hit Carter County and four were spotted in Harding County.

The one that hit Davis’ ranch was rated an EF-3 with peak winds estimated at 136 mph, traveling 3.6 miles wreaking havoc across a path 900 yards wide, according to the weather service.

That’s not even close to how big the tornado must have been, Davis said. “What can lift a 10,000-pound tractor and carry it over a mile-and-a-half?”

What intrigued him is the tractor left no tracks of its exit.

He examined where the tractor had been standing when the tornado hit.

“It was in crested wheat grass, about 14 inches high. The wheat was straight up, not bent. (The tractor) went straight up, didn’t bend down the crested wheat grass. The tractor was gone. I could see a mile and a half in every direction and could not see it.”

It was a 1974 Case 1070, 105 horsepower, pale yellow metal hood and cab and dark orange engine and frame and wheels.

His Harding County ranch is “about 100 yards from the Montana line and we’re like, 20 miles from North Dakota,” Davis said.

Most of the tractor is spread over three-quarters of a mile, he said.

“All the big pieces are in Montana. All that is intact is the engine and a busted half of the transmission on the rear end. The duals are gone, the front axle is gone. We found two tires and three rims off the rear wheels. It skipped for over a quarter mile after it hit. It snapped the housing off the rear axles. I had cast-iron weights on the duals and they flew another quarter mile from the engine and transmission. I have found parts as far as three miles away.”

He’s still missing a couple well-used cars that were rather permanently parked, that were taken from his yard.

Nobody was injured, but it was a close call for the family who rented a home on Davis’ ranch.

Dick Albert and his family have lived in the stucco farm house since 1992. Until June 28.

“Doug called me and told me to get in the basement,” Albert told the Capital Journal on Monday. “We just got down there and it went right over the top of us.” As in through them, he meant.

“We lost the house, everything was totaled,” Albert said. “All three vehicles were totaled. We lost a Warrior boat, still haven’t found it. A Lance camper. Still haven’t found that. A four-wheel-drive (ATV). Haven’t found that.”

Albert said he and his family are still figuring out what they are going to do for a new home.

Nobody was injured physically in Harding County that she has heard,” said Emergency Manager Glines.

But livestock was injured and dead deer were found near a creek where one of the tornadoes hit, Glines said.

Davis said he lost at least one sheep.

“We were lucky because the cattle and the sheep are in other directions from where the tornado was,” Davis said.

“I had an old Angus bull skewered with a 2-by-6. He didn’t die. We had the vet out, he cleaned out the wound. It was about 16 inches across and a foot deep, behind his front shoulder.”

Meanwhile, he’s been looking for things.

“I had a Datsun pickup truck up on the hill past the renters’ house, and I have not found it. And also a Chrysler New Yorker parked there. It is completely gone, we haven’t found it.”

Harding County has about 1,255 people; across the state line, Carter County has about 1,200 people.

Weather service officials say they still are investigating the tornadoes that hit the area on June 28.

by Stephen Lee (2018, July 3) Capital Journal

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Kyrie Wagner