The Roundup -

Housing And Donations Needed For Watford City Residents After Devastating Tornado


More than two-dozen people were injured, and a seven day-old baby was killed, when a tornado tore through Watford City on Tuesday, July 10. The tornado, which reached speeds of 127 miles per hour, according to meteorologist John Paul Martin of the National Weather Service, destroyed more than one hundred structures and damaged vehicles and property throughout the city.

Hitting just a few minutes after midnight, the tornado touched down at the Prairie View RV park where it hurt up to 28 individuals, with a handful of others needing treatment from elsewhere in the city. A total of 122 structures were destroyed in that park alone, according to McKenzie County Sherriff, Gary Schwartzenberger. An additional 200 structures were not destroyed, but suffered damage. Current figures reveal that roughly 200 people were displaced from homes. Residents are currently still collecting their belongings, some scattered throughout the park and others outside the park or missing altogether.

Officials report that all eight tornado sirens gave their warning prior to the tornado hitting the city, but some residents report not being able to hear the sirens indoors, especially during the storm.

Arrangements were immediately made to house the displaced at an emergency shelter set up by the Red Cross at the Watford City Civics Center. Approximately 50 men, women and children were housed at the facility the first evening. Aside from damaging residences and vehicles, the tornado also caused power outages, downing power lines and uprooting trees.

As county officials, Sherriff Schwartzenberger and Karolin Jappe, the McKenzie County emergency manager, and others came together to help the displaced, state officials also soon gathered to survey the damage and determine how they might best help the victims of the deadly weather event. North Dakota Governor, Doug Burgum, and Lt. Governor, Brent Sanford, met in Watford City on Tuesday, July 10, to view the damage. Accompanying them was Major General Alan Dohrmann, the adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard. Chiefly on their agenda was how to provide resources for disaster recovery.

Governor Burgum, according to press release from his office, stated, “First and foremost, we offer our deepest condolences to the parents of the 1-week-old boy who died from injuries sustained in the tornado. Our hearts go out to their family and friends and all of those injured and displaced by the storm.”

Burgum also complimented the cooperation between local agencies and volunteers, saying, “We’re extremely grateful to the dozens of agencies and hundreds of first responders, law enforcement officers, medical staff, volunteers and other community members who have come to the aid of their neighbors in need. As cleanup and recovery efforts get under way, the state stands ready to deploy assistance wherever it’s needed.”

There is a relief fund for the Watford City tornado victims at Cornerstone Bank in Watford City.

The Roundup spoke with McKenzie County emergency manager, Karolin Jappe, who explained the magnitude of the tragedy. Jappe explained, “It was quite a big RV park, nothing like the last one that hit Watford City four years ago. There were at least 75 destroyed recreational vehicles and campers. Of those, about twenty-five percent are families with children, and others were single adults or multiple adults in the home at the time of the tornado.”

When asked the immediate needs of the displaced, Jappe responded, “Housing is a big thing. We’re trying to put people into housing, so if anybody has housing available, please let us know.”

Jappe explained that household items, like furniture and appliances, were also in demand, saying, “We’re also looking for household items, toasters and even things like that. These people were left with practically nothing.”

There is hope on the horizon, however, as a cooperative effort is underway to help from different organizations. Jappe told the Roundup, “A couple of companies have already come forward to help. The big thing is that KEYZ radio is having a fundraiser, and we are hoping that really helps.”

According to Jappe, once donations are in their possession within two to four weeks, her office will send donations to North Dakota Community Cares. From there, Lutheran Social Services will interview and evaluate each family in need and will determine their need. The families and displaced individuals will then be given the funds received for that purpose.


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