this site

 

 


 

 


Tornado Chase Photos   Tornado Education  StormChaser Glossary   History   Home   Contact us
Wright Wyoming Deadly Tornado Report by Tornado Tim

     A deadly tornado hit Wright, Wyoming killing two people on August 12th 2005.  Sadly two people died from this tornado and many homes were destroyed.
     B
elow are all the NWS warnings I could find and I also received help from the local NWS office in Rapid City in getting all the tornado warnings. Thank you to the Rapid city officials in relaying this information to me. The first official NWS tornado warning was issued to the public at 4:46 PM.
       Consequently, while watching the video I noticed the time stamp and it shows the tornado on the edge of town at 4:38 and hitting the city at 4:40 PM. It appears the NWS warning was about six minutes after the tornado hit the Wright mobile home park but later found out the time on the video is incorrect.  Click below for tornadochaser.net exclusive posting of the sheriff's video of the Wright tornado, but be patient, it takes a while to download.
Sheriffs' Video of Wright Wyoming tornado as it hit town - Thanks for letting all of us see thisThe Casper Star Tribune reports that: according to Susan Sanders, warning coordination meteorologist for the Rapid City, S.D., National Weather Service station that serves Campbell County, said the tornado dropped in so quickly that sirens might not have done much good.  "It formed so close to town," she said. "It wasn't like they spotted it 10 miles from town and it took 10 minutes to get there."

Just a reminder about two things.
Tornado warning sirens are only for those outside, they were never designed to warn people inside their homes. So remember, if you are indoors, don't wait for the sirens, you probably will never hear them. Secondly, we should remember that Doppler Radar is line of sight technology, and detecting a tornado signature on this storm early on would have been difficult at best due to the fact that both radar units that cover this area are well over 100 miles away from Wright. Also terrain plays a big role in Doppler radar's ability to pick up a TVS signature as the signal can be obstructed.  Because of this, areas with large hills and mountains like Campbell county, Doppler radar is far less reliable for detecting tornadoes. It is storm spotters who then become the life saving eyes during storms, as were in place in Wright at the time of the tornado. I hope everyone thanks their local spotters who donate their time to protecting their communities. NWS trained storm spotters along with Doppler radar offers every community the best warning system possible. 
 

When to take shelter? Well, severe thunderstorm warnings tell you to take shelter.  There were plenty of severe thunderstorm warnings, which means everyone should have been on guard since severe thunderstorms, can and occasionally do produce tornadoes with little or no advanced warnings. 
TIME LINE:   401 PM MDT FRI AUG 12 2005
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RAPID CITY SD
...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING CONTINUES FOR CENTRAL CAMPBELL COUNTY UNTIL 500 PM MDT...  AT 357 PM MDT...DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO INDICATE A LINE OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WITH HAIL TO  THE SIZE OF QUARTERS...AND WIND GUSTS TO 60 MPH. THESE STORMS WERE LOCATED ALONG A LINE  EXTENDING FROM GILLETTE TO SAVAGETON...MOVING EAST-SOUTHEAST AT 30 MPH. * LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE... ROZET... IF YOU ARE IN THE PATH OF THIS STORM...TAKE SHELTER IN A  STURDY BUILDING AWAY FROM WINDOWS. LAT...LON 4435 10555 4389 10601 4375 10526 4430 10511


440 PM MDT FRI AUG 12 2005
...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING CONTINUES FOR SOUTHERN CAMPBELL COUNTY UNTIL 500 PM MDT...

AT 437 PM MDT...DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO INDICATE A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WITH LARGE HAIL TO THE SIZE OF GOLF BALLS...AND WIND GUSTS TO 60 MPH.

THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR RENO JUNCTION...OR 34 MILES SOUTH OF GILLETTE...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT  25 MPH.  * THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WILL BE NEAR... WRIGHT THROUGH 455 PM MDT...

GOLF BALL SIZED HAIL WAS REPORTED AT SAVAGETON AT 416 PM MDT.
QUARTER SIZED HAIL WAS REPORTED 15 MILES SOUTHEAST OF GILLETTE AT 410 PM MDT. IF YOU ARE IN  THE PATH OF THIS STORM...TAKE SHELTER IN A STURDY BUILDING AWAY FROM WINDOWS. LAT...LON 4388


WFUS53 KUNR 122246 TORUNR WYC005-122345-
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RAPID CITY SD
446 PM MDT FRI AUG 12 2005

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN RAPID CITY HAS ISSUED A
* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
  SOUTH CENTRAL CAMPBELL COUNTY IN NORTHEASTERN WYOMING
* UNTIL 545 PM MDT
* AT 442 PM MDT...A TORNADO WAS REPORTED NEAR WRIGHT...OR 37 MILES SOUTH OF GILLETTE. THIS TORNADO WAS MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 30 MPH.
* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE... WRIGHT...
IF YOU ARE NEAR THIS DANGEROUS TORNADO...TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY! GO TO A BASEMENT OR SMALL INTERIOR ROOM ON THE GROUND FLOOR. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS WITH BLANKETS...PILLOWS...OR CUSHIONS.


503 PM MDT FRI AUG 12 2005 WYC005-122345-
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RAPID CITY SD
CAMPBELL WY- 503 PM MDT FRI AUG 12 2005

...A TORNADO WARNING CONTINUES FOR SOUTHEASTERN CAMPBELL COUNTY UNTIL 545 PM MDT... AT 501  PM MDT...A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 7 MILES SOUTHEAST OF WRIGHT OR 40 MILES SOUTH OF  GILLETTE...MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH. * LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE... AREAS ALONG HIGHWAY 450 EAST OF WRIGHT... IF YOU ARE NEAR THIS DANGEROUS TORNADO...TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY! GO TO A  BASEMENT OR SMALL INTERIOR ROOM ON THE GROUND FLOOR. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS WITH
BLANKETS...PILLOWS...OR CUSHIONS. LAT...LON 4377 10537 4371 10541 4363 10515 4371 10507


Official damage report as of August 13th 2005.
0451 PM TORNADO WRIGHT 43.75N 105.50W   
08/12/2005 F2 CAMPBELL WY    *** 2 FATAL, 13 INJ ***
Tornado path 1 1/2 miles long by 1/4 mile wide.    Winds 113-130 mph.
Tornado was estimated to be on the ground for 10 to 15 minutes.
About 40 to 50 mobile homes destroyed.
Did you know?

B
ased on my research, historically the Campbell county area occasionally gets strong tornadoes. According to the Rapid City NWS office website, June 12th 1999 officials watched one tornado on the ground for 40 minutes near Wright Wyoming so this area is no stranger to long lived tornadoes. In 1988 an F2 tornado hit Campbell county southeast of Gillette. In fact, the Bighorn Mountains north/west of Wright Wyoming is probably one of the most active mountainous tornado regions in the world. In 1993 a large F2-F3 tornado was on the ground near Dayton Gulch and many others have been recorded over the years.  Just read Significant tornadoes in the Bighorn mountains for details.  Locals tell of more tornado events that aren't listed or recorded in any official books. Hunters have even told me of early fall storms that they believed had tornadoes in them. There are so few roads and the population is so low in this area, many tornadoes could easily go unrecorded, where as in Oklahoma you have 100 storm chasers, TV stations, and even helicopters following just about every storm, so they miss few tornadoes. This is another reason I believe tornado alley maps are not totally accurate since they are based on verified and recorded tornadoes. Low population areas like Wright Wyoming may have higher tornado touchdowns then many areas in the classic tornado alley zones, we just don't know for certain.

Look at most tornado alley maps, they don't include eastern Wyoming. I do on my tornado alley map because of what I have heard from local residents. Tornado safety requires tornado education within local areas so people living in those areas can understand better why taking shelter is so important.  

What does this story teach us?  Mobile home residents most of all must be vigilant when severe weather warnings are issued since mobile homes are not considered substantial shelter.  More than 60 percent of tornado-related fatalities in Alabama from 1980 to 1998 occurred in mobile homes.  To quote Harold Brooks in his essay on Mobile Home Tornado Fatalities. "To normalize the risk by population in mobile homes and other kinds of residences, we've looked at residential fatalities since 1985. From 1985-1995 there have been 191 mobile home deaths and 130 in other kinds of residences. Since (according to the US Census Bureau) only 6.1% of the United States population lives in mobile homes, this represents a much greater risk than for residents of "permanent" housing. During that time period, the average number of annual deaths per 10 million mobile home residents was approximately 11.4, while it was only 0.5 in other housing, implying that mobile home residents die at a rate 22.6 times greater than non-mobile home residents. Even assuming that tornadoes primarily occur in areas where the percentage of the population living in mobile homes is greater (say, double it to 12.2%, the approximate value for Butler County, Kansas, where Andover is located), the death rate is 10.6 times greater in mobile homes."

It also teaches us that everyone must take severe thunderstorm warnings seriously, even if you don't live in what many call the classic tornado alley area. With all the great watches and warnings that are issued, how many of us are really taking shelter when alerts are issued?  Chasing in 2005 we saw a tornado warning issued for North Plate, Nebraska, rotating ground debris on the edge of the city limits, yet down town was filled with cars, people walking on the side walks, businesses as normal. In St. Paul, Nebraska we watched people sitting outside in lawn chairs to watch storms like watching TV, as tornado warnings were issued for their very location.

I believe the US will have the most deaths from a tornado in many years soon, as many people don't take shelter even when they are told to. Often times, smaller communities like Wright Wyoming, you find people warn their friends about storms and the closeness of the community helps spread warnings faster. Many mobile home residents, up to 100 of them scrambled to the near by church basement for shelter after the tornado sirens went off.  But I have to say that as I travel the US each year we still find people who ignore tornado warnings, and yet others who never hear them. This a disaster just waiting to happen in the US, it is just a matter of time, the clock is ticking.  Don't make your life part of a record day, take shelter when warnings are issued, get out of mobile homes and into substantial shelter when warnings are issued, your life depends on it.
This isn't a TV show..............................

WANT TO HELP?
If you want to help the Red Cross now has enough clothing and household donations, however workers are asking people to send a check to the American Red Cross of Wyoming. The money will be put on a debit card to help victims buy specific items they need. You can send cash donations to: ARC of Wyoming, P.O. Box 586 Cheyenne, WY 82003.

Thank you to the Campbell county sheriffs office for their help and local residents for the information they provided for this report.

Tornadochaser.net  home of Tornado Tim