Path length: 26 miles

Width:  250 yards

Fatalities:  5

Injuries:  35

Rating:  F4

County:  Grant

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 46.40 / -101.88   End:  46.40 / -101.33      

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.


It is the deadliest Independence Day tornado on record and one of the deadliest in North Dakota’s modern history (U.S. Tornadoes):  The Elgin, ND F4 tornado of July 4, 1978.  The tornado caused extensive damage in the small town.  

There were five fatalities. Per Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, two of the deaths were in a pickup truck. Two other fatalities were in a car, pieces of which were found a mile away from the road. Another death was in a recreational vehicle. I have attached a newspaper article in the clips section below entitled “Storm Areas’ Cleanup Begins”, that shows 2 deaths did occur in a pickup truck but that 2 deaths were actually in senior citizen housing. Could not find details on the 5th death.

Grazulis stated that approximately 45 homes/trailers were damaged or destroyed and that 17 blocks were hit in Elgin. Storm Data mentions the tornado did skip. It traveled for an hour slowly through Grant County.  

Image via State Historical Society of North Dakota

Water tower destroyed by tornado, Elgin, N.D. via State Historical Society of North Dakota (32228-02-11)


Newspaper Clippings


We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the July 1978 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 26 mile path length.
  • Storm Data has a 28.9 miles path length.
  • Grazulis rounds up to 28 miles.

Max Width:

  • Storm Data has a range of widths from 200-300 yards.
  • Remaining sources list 250 yard width.


      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      July 1978 Storm Data Publication

      U.S. Tornadoes Article on Independence Day Tornadoes

      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1204.

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