Severe thunderstorm cuts swath through Sundance area

By Sarah Pridgeon

A toppled play structure at the Sundance Community Church.
A toppled play structure at the Sundance Community Church.

Friday’s storm took many people by surprise, coming as it did after a morning of bright sunshine and clear skies. In the late afternoon, a black cloud carrying hailstones up to the size of golf balls moved across the county, causing

The wind proved too much for one large spruce tree on the north side of Sundance High School.
The wind proved too much for one large spruce tree on the north side of Sundance High School.

considerable damage along its path.

(Jeff Moberg photos) The Allen residence on Main Street was littered with limbs stripped from trees around the lot.
(Jeff Moberg photos) The Allen residence on Main Street was littered with limbs stripped from trees around the lot.

After the storm, the city streets were littered with branches torn from trees; windows and siding from numerous homes and other buildings had been cracked or shattered; and vehicles caught in the open suffered smashed windows and denting.

The fleet of school buses that ferries Sundance’s kids back and forth was among the casualties, according to Facilities Manager Tom Necklason.

“Lots of bus windows broke, escape hatches on top of the buses and windshields,” he says.

“Really we didn’t have much damage to the buildings themselves.”

The city also saw damage, says Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz. The daycare building suffered greatly, with the north and west siding hit and two windows destroyed, while the new Sundance Police Department vehicle was also hit hard.

A home along Himile Rd. was one of many with extensive hail damage in the area.
A home along Himile Rd. was one of many with extensive hail damage in the area.

The Black Hills National Forest has meanwhile been assessing the impacts of the storm, which travelled through the Cement Ridge area and headed towards Spearfish Canyon. Crews worked over the weekend to open most of the main roads and a reconnaissance flight was planned for Monday afternoon to map the storm’s path and get an aerial overview of the damage.

As soon as the hail subsided, says Vicky Vineyard of Security Insurance, the phone began to ring with locals wanting to make insurance claims.

“We’ve just been inundated – it’s by far the worst I’ve seen and I’ve been here for 37 years. Broken windshields on vehicles, and of course those you need to take care of right away, broken windows on houses – and it was so widespread,” she says.

A pair of hailstones picked up on Sewell Street nearly an hour after they landed.
A pair of hailstones picked up on Sewell Street nearly an hour after they landed.

“The phones haven’t quit ringing. We finally left about 8 p.m. on Friday night and then I came back in and took a lot of claims on Saturday.”

An Idaho family passing through at the wrong time had the glass at both ends of their auto destroyed.
An Idaho family passing through at the wrong time had the glass at both ends of their auto destroyed.

In typical Crook County style, she adds, people have been great to deal with, often urging her to prioritize others in worse shape over their own claims.

The National Weather Service estimates that hail of up to 2.5 inches in size fell in Sundance and up to 1.5 inches closer to Hulett. Sundance was reported to be the hardest hit on the Wyoming side of the border, though Newell saw 4.5-inch hail and parts of Meade County and Lead saw 3-inch stones.

The storm was accompanied by heavy winds, reaching at least 65 miles per hour.