‘It was just one big bang’

Farm Forum

DELMONT — A tornado struck the small town of Delmont on May 10, injuring at least nine people and damaging about 20 buildings, including a church where children attending Sunday school took shelter in the basement. No deaths were reported.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard said none of the injuries was life-threatening and seven of the nine people had been released from the hospital.

The town about 90 miles southwest of Sioux Falls had no water, power or phones, South Dakota Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Kristi Turman said. The 200-plus residents were asked to leave for safety reasons.

Law enforcement officials reported the tornado hit Delmont around 10:45 a.m., according to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

“Our house is flat. There is nothing left,” said Stephanie Lunder, 34, of Delmont. She was with her husband and four children in the basement when the storm hit.

The weather service, which surveyed the damage, rated the storm an EF-2, with a peak wind speed of 130 mph. Its path was 17.3 miles long, and it had a maximum width of 400 yards, according to preliminary data from the weather service.

Among the buildings damaged was Zion Lutheran Church, which lost its roof, stained glass windows and pipe organ. Children who were in Sunday school took shelter in the basement when the tornado hit.

Daugaard was in Delmont to tour tornado damage. Cleanup was set to begin on May 11, although some homes already were being cleaned on May 10. Utility trucks and crews were assessing damage, including downed poles and lines.

Cow carcasses were piled up near a farm after the animals either died in the tornado or were hurt and later euthanized. A flattened home sat at the entrance to the town, and dozens of people were helping the homeowner.

Across the street, 87-year-old Walter Stoebner said his house was damaged.

“It sucked the window out of the living room, frame and everything,” Stoebner said. “It was just one big bang, and that was it. It didn’t last long.”

Besides the church, the city’s new fire hall was heavily damaged, said Anita Mathews, owner of the Old Bank Mini-Mart.

“One side of town was taken away,” Mathews said.

Three people who were injured were treated and released from Avera St. Benedict Health Center in Parkston, hospital spokeswoman Lindsey Meyers said.

The South Dakota Office of Emergency Management was sending help at the request of local authorities, South Dakota Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan said.

Meteorologist Brad Adams of the weather service said another tornado touched down west of Ethan, but no damage was reported.