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SkyPix Tornadoes

Spencer SD Tornado

Spencer SD Tornado

The big tornado at bottom center of this wide-angle shot had passed over the photo location about 10 minutes earlier, a glacial-era kettle lake, whipped to whitecaps by the trailing rear-flank downdraft (RFD). The rain-diffused rays of the setting Dakota sun cast aglow the scud tags in the above-foreground, as they raced southward (left-to-right) around the W edge of the mesocyclone. The dust cloud to the right was being blown southward on the inner edge of the RFD, but started as dirt blasted off a field by the tornado several minutes before. The surreal, pastel beauty of this scene belied the indescribable horror engulfing the old prairie town of Spencer. Unknown to me, the tornado was in Spencer at the time of this photo, killing 6 people and injuring half its population, with damage rated up to F4. A singular, nearly half-mile wide tornadic vortex in Spencer, it would soon become rain-wrapped, grow to almost a mile wide, and break into multiple vortices SE of town. This was the deadliest, most destructive tornado in South Dakota history.

4 WNW Spencer SD (30 May 98) looking ESE.
(GPS)

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