SPC Stats

Path length: 26 miles

Width:  250 yards

Fatalities:  5

Injuries:  35

Rating:  F4

County:  Grant

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 5 fatalities.  Per Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, approximately 45 homes/trailers were damaged or destroyed. Storm Data mentions the tornado did skip.  It traveled for an hour slowly through Grant County.  

Additional Details from Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes

  • Approx. 45 homes or trailers were damaged or destroyed.
  • 17 blocks were hit in Elgin.
  • Two of the deaths were in a pickup truck.
  • Two deaths were in a car, pieces of which were found  mile away from the road.
  • One death was in a recreational vehicle.

Note:  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.

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.

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)

Videos

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

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.

      Sources:

      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      July 1978 Storm Data Publication

      U.S. Tornadoes Article on Independence Day Tornadoes

      newspapers.com

      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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