Six Reported Dead in South Dakota Tornado
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (May 31) - A tornado that struck after dark with no apparent warning wiped out the small town of Spencer in South Dakota, killing six people and injuring another 150, officials said on Sunday.
"This is like a war zone -- like Hiroshima, like Nagasaki," Gov. William Janklow said after visiting what was left of the town 50 miles (80 km) west of Sioux Falls on Sunday morning. He told reporters the death toll stood at six.
Spencer resident Tammy Kreutzfeld said the only warning she had was the sound of the storm bearing down on the town of 300. She and six family members fled to the basement.
"We screamed when we heard the sound ... and the (atmospheric) pressure was so bad. Then the house blew off he foundation. We looked up and we could see the the tornado overhead," she said.
"People couldn't believe we were still alive after they saw our house. I guess praying got us through it," she added. She was injured by falling foundation bricks and taken to a hospital for treatment. The storm hit at 8:45 p.m. local time (1345 GMT) on Saturday and residents said they heard no tornado sirens beforehand.
A dispatcher at the Davison County Sheriff's Office in nearby Mitchell said the town was "pretty much gone." Television footage revealed skeletal trees stripped of their bark and leaves, splintered wood and shards of twisted metal block after block.
One man who lives outside the town of 300 said he drove in after the storm and "the things that I used to see, the (grain) elevator, the church steeples, were gone."
Mary Bruns, who lives a half-mile (0.75 km) from Spencer, said she went to the town looking for her elderly mother.
"I found her right away. She was okay. But everybody was wandering around looking for each other, looking for their neighbors. This was all one big family," she told the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader. U.S. Marshal Lyle Swenson called the damage worse than a 1962 tornado that heavily damaged Mitchell. "From where I am right now I can only see one house standing," he told the newspaper.
Survivors were taken to a National Guard armory at the nearby town of Salem where cots and privacy tents were set up.