By Sarah Pridgeon
A tornado warning was issued across Crook County on Saturday afternoon, as an otherwise sunny day gave way to black clouds, the wind picked up significantly and large hailstones began to fall. Officials reported sighting a wall cloud with rotation in the Tower Junction area and the skies above Sundance turned a warning shade of green.
However, it remains unclear whether a tornado did form in the area and no official evidence of one touching down has yet been reported. According to Susan Sanders of the National Weather Service in Rapid City, reports were received of wind damage and funnel clouds were sighted somewhere between Keyhole Reservoir and Devils Tower, but the reports are as yet unconfirmed.
The sudden storm did, however, cause damage throughout the county, ripping branches from trees and destroying crops. At around 3:30 p.m. the region was hit by large hail stones that left a white, snow-like blanket across the center of the county and winds strong enough to move RVs and trailers.
Local ranchers Will Yemington and Alana Greiner report that the storm felled a large tree and blocked access to the ranch, ripped up their vegetable and flower gardens and flooded the basement. Accounts have also been received of the storm destroying hay fields in the county.
The ham radio operators running an annual communications field exercise on Warren Peak were meanwhile left struggling to keep their tent intact in the pouring rain. When lightning struck within half a mile, they shut down the radios just in time for a barrage of wind, rain and hail to hit.
Though the tent was capable of standing up to 60 mile per hour winds, the conditions were intensified by the elevation. The operators worked together to hold down the structure from the inside and managed to prevent any rain damage to their equipment.