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10 Year Anniversary of the Little Sioux Scout Ranch Tornado

12 Jun 2018, 8:02 am

[Destroyed bunk house cabin used for shelter, struck by a tornado at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch on June 11, 2008.]

Monday marked the 10 year anniversary of the Little Sioux tornado that occurred in western Iowa, touching down at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch. Four boy scouts lost their lives in the tornado, and 48 were injured. The tornado was one of 28 reported, spread from eastern Kansas to Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

[Cell Phone Photo from A.J. Loser. From the National Weather Service, Omaha]

The tornado started 4.5 miles west of Little Sioux, Iowa in Burt County, NE where center pivot irrigation systems were tipped over and numerous trees were damaged. The storm tracked northeast across the Missouri River and interstate 29 near mile marker 97, where a semi-truck flipped on its side. Heading northeast, the tornado snapped power poles and then entered the Little Sioux Scout Ranch. The tornado destroyed the ranger’s home near the entrance of the park and was rated a solid EF-3. The storm then blew down trees and struck a bunk house where the scouts were taking shelter.

Many of the injuries were reported to have happened when a brick fireplace in the northern shelter  where the Scouts were taking cover, was destroyed. A truck parked outside was thrown through the air and may have struck the building, causing additional damage.

The Boy Scouts at the camp, including some of the injured, immediately began to administer first aid and assist their fellow campers. The Scouts’ first aid training was used and credited for saving lives. 121 medals for heroism were awarded to scouts and scout leaders for their heroic actions.

The tornado killed Josh Fennen, Sam Thomsen, Ben Petrzilk all 13 from Omaha, NE and Aaron Eilerts, 14, from Eagle Grove, IA. Those injured suffered wounds ranging from cuts and bruises to major head trauma.

[The remains of an SUV found by the ranger’s home]

The storm continued northeast into Preparation Canyon State Park and continued to topple trees. Prior to entering the park, a farmstead sustained damage. The tornado then hit another farmstead approximately 2.5 miles southwest of Moorhead, IA. Trees were blown down and sheds were damaged on the farmstead. The tornado then began to weaken and lifted 2 miles southwest of Moorhead, IA.

Unfortunately, at the time the camp did not have a tornado shelter. In 2013, two tornado shelters were constructed at the camp and a tornado siren was added. The new structures can withstand an EF5 tornado and have concrete walls, steel shutters and emergency power backup.

[Siren and shelter installed at the ranch in 2013 after the tornado. Photo from Mid-America Council]

Information from National Weather Service, Omaha

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels