Path length: 57.5 miles

Width:  400 yards

Fatalities:  4

Injuries:  44

Rating:  F2

County:  Norman, Mahnomen, Polk, Clearwater

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 47.33 / -96.35   End:  47.75 / -95.25

Used NCDC county coordinates as well      

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


During the early morning hours of July 5, 1978, a family of tornadoes moved through parts of Norman, Mahnomen, Polk and Clearwater Counties in Minnesota. Officially, the SPC Database lists a rating of F2. Thomas Grazulis though has a rating of F3. It was a devastating event that covered 55-60 miles or more (there are discrepancies on the path length). Four fatalities were reported and 40+ injuries.

The first report of damage occurred in the Perley area of Norman County. A trailer was smashed. Also reported in this county near Twin Valley, several planes an a new terminal building suffered heavy damage at the Norman County Airport.

The tornado then crossed through the town of Gary at 156am CT (that is when the clocks stopped). One-third of the town was flattened. The Storm Data entry lists 23 homes destroyed and 48 damaged. 10 mobile homes were obliterated. A nursing home and a school reported damage and numerous crops and trees were flattened. Three people were killed in Gary. Thirty-five were injured with at least 20 serious.

Next to be hit was the town of Fosston. It was reported that one county barn was destroyed, along with at least 15 trailers. Numerous businesses and other buildings were damaged. One was killed and nine were hospitalized.

The tornado moved northeast through Clearbrook. At least two injuries here with trailer homes demolished. The path ended northeast of Clearbrook.

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 57.5 mile path length.
  • Storm Data has a length at 75 miles.  They mention it was a family of tornadoes.
  • Grazulis has a family of tornadoes with a length of 61 miles.


  • SPC/NCDC have 44 injuries.
  • Storm Data and Grazulis list 38 injuries.


  • SPC/NCDC have this tornado rated at F2.
  • Grazulis has an F3 rating.


      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      July 1978 Storm Data Publication

      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1205.

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