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Local woman recounts surviving Spearfish Canyon tornado

July 4, 2018 GMT

SAVOY — April Rudd was out working on her chicken coop near her home in Spearfish Canyon Friday afternoon when she noticed some ominous looking clouds in the sky.

“I saw the storm coming and started putting stuff away,” she said.

Her children had messaged that they were driving in Spearfish Canyon to her home not far from Spearfish Canyon Lodge.

“I stayed out front for as long as I could then we started getting large hail. At first, I could see the other side of the canyon and then I couldn’t,” Rudd said. “I took that as a cue to head inside.”

Rudd lives in a double-wide trailer on a hill overlooking the Spearfish Canyon Volunteer Fire Department. She gathered her dogs and hunkered down in an interior hallway with no windows in the trailer.

“I don’t know how long it was, maybe five minutes. All I could hear were trees hitting the house,” she said.

Once the calamity outside died down, Rudd felt safe enough to venture out.

“It took a half an hour to get out of the house, and another half hour to get down the driveway,” she said. “There were trees all over the house and the power lines all around were ripped from the ground.”

Once she reached the bottom of her driveway, her children were there waiting.

“It felt like something out of a movie. We both started running for each other and gave each other a big hug. We were all pretty surprised I didn’t die,” Rudd said.

Susan Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Rapid City, said she and others from the NWS will be in Spearfish Canyon today to survey the damage. They can determine wind speeds of the tornado by examining the damage left behind. They have some basic guidelines for determination such as if a tree is uprooted the winds speeds are most likely between 75 and 100 mph. If the trees are snapped, the speeds may have been between 90 and 100 mph.

Sanders said tornadoes aren’t that common in the Black Hills.

“I haven’t been able to find any historic reports of a tornadoes in Spearfish Canyon, but I know I have heard of some in that area,” she said.

Thunderstorms that form and move over the hills are actually intensified with the updraft from the hills, Sanders said.

The tornado spotted in Spearfish Canyon started south of Sundance, Wyo., and from evidence discovered so far is estimated to have traveled 20 miles through the hills.

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