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Storm Brings Severe Damage, Derails Train

Severe weather was seen in many areas across eastern Roosevelt County, Richland County, northern Valley County and Sheridan County on the afternoon of Saturday, July 21. The storm brought severe damage to the community of Froid and golf ball-sized hail in many areas throughout the region and caused the derailment of 11 double-stacked Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad cars east of Culbertson.

According to Brad Mickelson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Glasgow, the storm began in northern Valley County, moved through the Scobey area, took a right turn, headed for Culbertson and continued on towards Sidney. The areas of Wolf Point and Poplar were mostly untouched by the storm.

Most of the damage occurred in Froid, shared Mickelson, as 80 to 100 mile per hour winds were recorded in town. The strongest winds from the storm were seen west of Froid at 103 miles per hour. At 4:11 p.m., a 57 mph wind gust damaged one of the NWS’s weather observation centers near Froid. Mickelson stated that it was still not back up and running as of presstime Monday.

A storm damage survey was not performed by the NWS, since there is no question as to what happened on Saturday. Mickelson noted that the NWS is aware that it was straight line winds from a hail storm that caused the damage reported.

In Froid, windows on homes were damaged or broken, trees lost branches, vehicles were dented, windshields were broken, power poles snapped, crops suffered significant damage and roof and siding damage was reported as a result of golf ball- sized hail. Golf ball-sized hail measures to be 1.75 inches in diameter, said Mickelson.

Sheridan Electric Co-op reported widespread and extensive damage throughout their system due to the storm. There were numerous broken poles spanning from Homestead down to Culbertson, west to Poplar and east to Bainville. They recruited help from Lower Yellowstone Cooperative to assist in restoring power to the affected areas in a timely manner.

About 32 miles east of Brockton, golf ball-sized hail was also recorded and quarter-sized hail was reported three miles southwest of Culbertson near McCabe.

Sixty mph winds were recorded five miles north of Culbertson. In the town of Culbertson, winds were recorded to be between 55 and 60 miles per hour.
Bruegger Centennial Park and an area one mile east of Culbertson had severe flooding.

South and southeast of Culbertson in Richland County, wind speeds were up to 70 mph. Fifty mph gusts were recorded at Sidney/Richland Airport.
The 11 double-stacked BNSF rail cars that blew off the track in between Culbertson and Bainville were not carrying hazardous materials. This was confirmed by Mickelson, following the report received from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office that responded to the scene to evaluate.

The train was not in motion at the time of the derailment. Mickelson said it takes roughly 70 to 80 mph gusts to blow over double-stacked cars that have been stacked too high. Single stacked cars can blow over with 50 to 60 mph winds.