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Watford City

An EF2 tornado that touched down Tuesday in Watford City became the 11th killer tornado to strike North Dakota since 1950, according to data from the National Weather Service.

A 1-week-old baby boy died from injuries suffered in the storm, which ripped through an RV park about 12:45 a.m.

More than two dozen others were injured, including nine critically, by the tornado, which destroyed 122 structures in an RV park housing oilfield workers and families. About 200 people were displaced due to the destruction caused by winds reaching 127 miles per hour.

The boy’s death brings North Dakota’s tornado toll to 26 since 1950.

It was the fourth deadly tornado in the U.S. this year. A Feb. 24 outbreak killed a man in Arkansas and a woman in Kentucky while an April 13 tornado killed a 2-year-old girl in Louisiana.

The June 20, 1957, F5 tornado in Fargo remains the state’s worst in terms of deaths (10) and injuries (103). It had the seventh longest path on the ground — 27.4 miles — of the 1,583 tornadoes recorded from 1950 to 2017.

A review of the weather service’s historical data for those 68 years, which does not include details from tornadoes in 2018, reveals the following:

  • Tornadoes killed 25 people and injured another 334.
  • On average, North Dakota records 23.3 twisters per year.
  • The state’s second deadliest tornado happened July 4, 1978, when an F4 twister killed five people and injured 35 others. It touched down in Grant County, near Elgin, and traveled 26 miles during its hour on the ground.
  • Two people each died in separate tornadoes during the 1950s: a Morton county storm in 1953 and a Richland County twister in 1955.
  • The tornado with the longest path struck May 5, 1964, in Emmons County, where it stayed on the ground for 47.5 miles. No one was killed or injured. The second longest touched down June 29, 1975, in Hettinger County and and spent 45.8 miles on the ground. One person was killed and four others were injured.
  • The state has seen three F5 tornadoes, all in the 1950s. In addition to the 1957 Fargo tornado, the other two happened on May 29, 1953, in Morton and Emmons counties.
  • There have been 14 tornadoes with an F4 or EF4 rating and 41 with an F3 or EF3 rating.
  • Since 1950, Cass County has had 94 tornadoes, the most of any county in the state. Other counties in the top 5 are Grand Forks (73), Barnes (58), Ward (53) and Walsh (51).
  • Billings County has had seven tornadoes, the fewest of any county in the state. The next fewest occurred in Oliver (8), Golden Valley (10), Slope (11) and Foster (11).

For more details, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s storm events database at https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents.

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