Small tornado and big storm damages buildings and causes power outages

A small tornado touched down Wednesday several miles southeast of Glasgow near the town of Whately.
A small tornado touched down Wednesday several miles southeast of Glasgow near the town of Whately.
Posted at 10:55 AM, May 22, 2020

The National Weather Service in Glasgow has confirmed that a small tornado touched down Wednesday night several miles southeast of Glasgow near the town of Whately.

The tornado is estimated to have touched down at 9:17 PM, and was on the ground for less than five minutes.

The damage path from the tornado was narrow, only 50 yards, and the track of the tornado was less than a mile. The tornado was rated EF-0 ("weak"), the lowest of six levels on the Enhanced Fujita scale that categorizes tornadoes based on size and damage. The NWS estimated peak wind speeds of 80 miles per hour.

During its brief time on the ground, the tornado damaged several buildings, according to the NWS. A roof was lifted completely off a metal barn, and a nearby house had siding damage. Another home had minor roof damage, and a roof was lifted off a carport. There were no reports of injuries.

Power is still out for some people in nearby McCone County due to Wednesday night's storms, which caused damage to chimneys and shingles on homes and campers. Powerful winds and 1.94 inches of rain fell during the storm. Hail also caused damage and flooding in Custer County.

The McCone County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook during the storm: "Get to the basement now. Roofs are being blown off in Brockway area."

The McCone Electric Cooperative, with help from other co-ops, is fixing more than 130 poles on a 25-mile stretch. "Very intense for almost an hour and a half," co-op General Manager Michael Hoy said about the storm. "There's a lot of damage on the ground as far as out buildings, barns. The National Weather Service is inspecting a house that lost its roof. The damage was mainly along Highway 200 in McCone County and just touching into Garfield County."

Montana typically sees several tornadoes every year in the spring, particularly in the eastern part of the state. Unlike those in "Tornado Alley" in the central part of the country, most Montana tornadoes are relatively small and usually touch down in sparsely-populated areas – but not always.

Six people were injured and several homes and buildings were damaged by an EF-3 tornado in Baker in eastern Montana in June 2016. In 2017, a small tornado hit near Sidney in Richland County in eastern Montana, injuring one person and causing damage. In June 2010, a tornado hit Billings, causing significant damage to the MetraPark facility. Just several weeks later, two people were killed when a tornado struck a family ranch near Reserve in northeastern Montana.

Click here for a list of Montana tornadoes recorded between 1950 and 2012.