Cleanup efforts got off to a strong start Wednesday at a Watford City RV park struck by a devastating tornado.
Energy and construction companies donated equipment and personnel to help remove debris from the Prairie View RV Park after a tornado ripped through early Tuesday.
“We had a constant convoy of trucks going to the dump, all day in and out,” said Jeremy Olson, a vice president for MBI Energy Services, one of the companies that volunteered to help. “The amount of stuff we moved in a short amount of time is mind-boggling.”
A 1-week-old baby died from his injuries after his family’s RV flipped in the storm that struck about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday.
A GoFundMe account had raised $18,000 as of Wednesday for Marisa Reber and Will Maguire, parents of the infant, Blake.
“Marisa held him tight all through the tornado as their home was tossed and destroyed. Blake was then life flighted to the hospital where they found he was suffering from severe head trauma. We are very thankful that their young son Tristan was having a sleepover that night and was unharmed,” wrote Sheila Anderson, who created the GoFundMe page.
More than two dozen residents were injured during the tornado and an estimated 200 were displaced. The storm destroyed 122 structures, including RVs, mobile homes and outbuildings, in the RV park that houses oilfield workers and families.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service determined the EF2 tornado was on the ground for 3 minutes. The tornado’s path was 0.55 miles long and 400 yards wide, said John Paul Martin, warning coordination meteorologist with the Weather Service in Bismarck.
Martin, part of a team that assessed the damage on Tuesday, said the tornado had wind speeds of 127 miles per hour.
“When you come out and see the damage, you’re just in awe of what weather can do,” Martin said.
Volunteers planned to continue clearing debris until 10 p.m. Wednesday and resume at 8 a.m. Thursday.
“It’s just phenomenal,” McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger said of the response.
About 60 people, including 14 children, slept on cots Tuesday night at an American Red Cross emergency shelter at the Watford City Civic Center. Others stayed with family and friends in the community.
The Red Cross planned to keep the emergency shelter open for the foreseeable future.
On Thursday, the Red Cross is opening a Multi-Agency Response Center at the Watford City Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to connect people with recovery resources. It will be a one-stop shop for people to connect with nonprofit agencies and community and government partners, said Rob Stotz, executive director for the Red Cross Dakotas Region.
“Residents of Watford City have been through a lot in the last 24 hours, and we want to make the recovery process as easy as possible,” Stotz said.