Posted 6/28/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
What residents are calling a “plow wind” took the roof off the old Wildrose school Friday night, toppled grain bins, wrapped a trailer around a utility pole and downed trees that blocked streets all over town.
About 20 residents of the apartments in the school building were displaced until Monday evening, said Jimmy Smith, co-owner, but no one was hurt.
“It was a huge crash,” said Smith, who was awakened by the sound of the roof lifting off.
A portion of the roof hanging off the building blocked exit from the south side and came to rest on a pickup truck parked alongside the building. Other tangled pieces of the wreckage came to rest in the former school yard.
“‘Let’s get out of here,’” Smith said to tenants who gathered in the hallway in the aftermath. “We walked out on the ‘new’ side.”
Smith said what flew off was a newer roof that capped the old roof, still in place, so damage to the inside of the building was minimized. Residents remained displaced Tuesday morning, awaiting an inspector’s okay before they could return.
Tenant Roger Yarborough wasn’t home at the time the wind hit.
“My fiance told me the roof was off the school. I thought she was just joking,” he said.
Smith co-owns the units with a partner, Scott Pearson of Minnesota.
“We’re contractors,” he said, so they can probably replace the roof themselves.
Everyone pitches in
“I guess I may as well do this,” said Sharon Rosten as she raked up smaller branches on the street between her house and the school building.
A bigger tangle of branches in her front yard would have to wait for other volunteers who, by 11 a.m. Saturday, were down the street from Rosten’s place, taking chain saws to whole trees that blocked two more streets.
Rev. Greg Knopp manned one chain saw while members of the fire department ran a few others.
“A lot of times, the community will just come together and we help,” said fireman Jason Petersen.
Rosten said she was aware of the potential for strong winds, having watched the weather report on television at 10 p.m., which predicted 70 mile per hour gusts.
About an hour later, “It started blowing,” but Rosten guesses the force of the wind had to be greater than predicted.
Plus, “It lasted so long, it seemed like that wind just kept going forever.”
Surveying the damage
Across town, longtime resident Delores Cain rode shotgun with a visiting relative.
“There is so little devastation and yet so much,” said Susan Cain, who marvels at the fact no one was hurt at the same time so much property damage occurred and so many trees were felled.
On the outskirts of town, an unoccupied trailer was blown into a utility pole that was being held in place Saturday by the grappling arm of a utility truck. The contents of the trailer, including a mattress and other household goods, lay scattered to the southeast from the point of impact.
The wind, said Delores, “seemed like it had a path.”
Pausing in their tour across from several large grain bins that were tipped over on the south side of town, the women said a utility worker told them the amount of damage was the worst any town has suffered in the recent spate of storms to hit the region.
Until Friday night, said Susan, “Everything has missed us.”
The same storm system dumped 1.76 inches of rain in Crosby.
April Cooper of the National Weather Service in Bismarck said a gust of 69 miles per hour was clocked in Williston Friday night, toppling rides and tents at the Upper Missouri Valley Fair. It also caused concert-goers to shelter in place.
She said estimates of winds 70 to 80 miles per hour are not at all out of line with the type of damage reported.