Forest officials work to open tornado-damaged area

By Sarah Pridgeon

Trails and roads in the north Black Hills are opening once again after Forest Service crews worked to clear debris and hazards following the June 29 storm.

The National Weather Service has confirmed that two supercells moved across the area that afternoon and, in addition to the sizeable hail that affected the area, spawned a tornado that travelled from southeast of Sundance to Spearfish Canyon.

Jeff Moberg photos Trees were uprooted along Moskee Road (left and above) following the tornado that passed through the area on June 29. Damage from the twister extended from near Sundance to the east rim of Spearfish Canyon.
Jeff Moberg photos
Trees were uprooted along Moskee Road (left and above) following the tornado that passed through the area on June 29. Damage from the twister extended from near Sundance to the east rim of Spearfish Canyon.

Most of the damage from that tornado reportedly affected wooded areas, snapping trees throughout its path. Some structural damage was also observed east of Hwy 585, southeast of Sundance near the beginning of the path.

The tornado began near Sundance at 4:05 p.m. and travelled 19 miles east to Spearfish Canyon, with a maximum width of 200 yards. It has been categorized as an EF-1 moderate tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with maximum wind speed estimated at 105 mph.

Trail 1603 on the Bearlodge District and the Red Lake trail system on the Northern Hills District were cleared and opened to the public last week. Other affected Forest Service trails included Old Baldy and Rimrock in the Northern Hills and 1601 and 1602 on the Bearlodge; the latter two trails required heavy machinery to clear.

At time of going to press, the Rimrock trail system was still closed and the Forest Service hope to have it open to the public next week. In the Bearlodge Ranger District, all but Pole Cabin Gulch, Williams Gulch and Plato Gulch had been opened; the final three roads are in an active timber sale area and the district is considering timber sale salvage options.

The Forest Service warns, however, that hazards still remain from uprooted and snapped-off trees and the public is urged to avoid these hazard areas until they have been cleared.