SPC Stats

Path length: 11.6 miles

Width:  10 yards

Fatalities:  5

Injuries:  40

Rating:  F3

County:  Hennepin

It was called the most damaging Minnesota tornado to date, but Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes questions that statement.  He believes this was a “complex combination of tornadoes and microbursts” and that much of the damage was due to the strong microbursts.  

It is in the record books as an F3 tornado.  There was no width listed in the Climatological Data National Summary (CDNS) and the 10 yard width in the SPC Database doesn’t seem to be correct so it is unknown how wide this tornado was. Per CDNS, there was a damage track from Lake Minnetonka through the southern parts of Minneapolis over to Wold-Chamberlain Airport.  When you plot the SPC coordinates, it ends just west of the airport. It should be extended further east.  

In his book, Thomas Grazulis also questions the death toll.  Officially the SPC Database and the CDNS summary list 5 fatalities related to the tornado. Grazulis states that 2 of those deaths were not tornado-related.  And he further writes, “in fact, all five deaths may not have been directly caused by the tornado.”

There was tremendous damage.  At the airport, 63 airplanes were destroyed. Several homes were severely damaged and hundreds of trees blown down on roofs and cars.  

Found an article in the Minneapolis Star about a baby found in a potato field! Two houses were thrown in the field and demolished.  “No two boards remained together”….It happened near 63rd street and 4th avenue south in Richfield.  One of the new homes was owned by Karl Herbst.  As neighbors were searching for members fo the family they heard a cry in a nearby potato field and they found 2-year-old Charles Herbst lying on the ground. “His face was black and they feared he had died.”  But the baby cried and he was taken to the hospital.  He parents were found crawling from the field as well!

Climatological Data National Summary Entry

Most damaging tornado of record in Minnesota.  Originated in Lake Minnetonka area and moved eastward through Richfield Township, South Minneapolis to Wold-Chamberlain Airport where about 63 airplanes destroyed and about 37 other damaged.  Several W.M.L. hangars, some military barracks and other buildings demolished or severely damaged.  Several homes completely demolished.  Property damage extensive in Minneapolis, St. Paul and vicinity.  Power and communication lines seriously affected.  Hundreds of trees blown down with damage to roofs and automobiles.  Scores injured.  Excessively heavy rains caused much flooding.  Growing crops damaged.

Additional Information from Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes

  • “Complex combination of tornadoes and microbursts”
  • At least two farm homes were destroyed.
  • Two people were killed in the collapse of a grocery store in St. Anthony Village.
  • Much of the damage was due to strong microbursts.
  • Most of the debris was thrown for only 100 yards.

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 44.93 / -93.50   End:  44.88 / -93.27      

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

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the July 1951 Climatological Data National Summary (CDNS) and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 11.6 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and CDNS have a length at 18 miles.

Width:

  • CDNS has no width and neither does Grazulis.
  • SPC has a width of 10 yards and NCDC has 33 yards.  Probably fillers since none was recorded in CDNS.

Fatalities:

  • Grazulis has 3 fatalities and questions whether even those were a direct result of the tornado.
  • Remaining sources list 5 fatalities.

Injuries:

  • CDNS has not specific injury county.  It just says “scores” injured.
  • Remaining sources list 40 injuries.

      Sources:

      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      July 1951 Climatological Data National Summary

      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 960.

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