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20 Years Later: March Minnesota Tornado Outbreak of 1998

30 Mar 2018, 8:13 am

[Image courtesy Roy Janni of rural Hanska, MN]

Tornadoes are rare in the Upper Midwest in March, let alone in Minnesota. On March 29th, 1998, multiple tornadoes tracked along a warm front during the late afternoon and early evening. The supercell thunderstorms produced 14 tornadoes across southern Minnesota.  It is the largest March occurrence of tornadoes in Minnesota.  In fact, prior to 1998, there were only 7 tornadoes total known to have hit Minnesota in March.  There was extreme and widespread damage to trees, homes, schools, and businesses.  Sadly, two people were killed by the tornadoes near Lake Hanska and St. Peter.

[Destroyed homes in Comfrey, MN]

[Aerial view of tornado damage near Comfrey, MN]

The first tornado touched down at 3:23 p.m. near Lismore in Nobles County.  Five more tornadoes briefly followed in Nobles and southern Murray Counties. North of Fulda, the strongest and longest tornado developed.  It was an F4 that was on the ground for 77 minutes and tracked 67 miles through several counties (from just north of Fulda to just west of Nicollet), causing major damage to farms and homes.  The worst damage was in Comfrey and the Lake Hanska area.

As the tornado dissipated just west of Nicollet, a new tornado formed just east of Nicollet and went on to hit St Peter.  It produced F3 damage. Other tornadoes caused significant damage in Le Center, Lonsdale and near Castle Rock.  The last tornado was rated F0, was on the ground for just one mile, and dissipated five miles southwest of Hastings at 6:48 p.m.  All told, over a span of 3 hours and 20 minutes, 13 tornadoes occurred along this path, with the first tornado touching down about 25 miles east of South Dakota, and the last one dissipating only eight miles from Wisconsin.   A 14th tornado (not shown on the map) touched down just west of Wabasha in southeast Minnesota. It was rated F0. Massive hail was also reported with the tornadoes, with golf ball to baseball size hail common.  The largest hail stone fell in Courtland and was 4.5 inches in diameter.

[Lake Hanska, MN damage]

[Structure damage in St. Peter, MN]

Our WeatherNation affiliate in Minneapolis, KARE-TV, filed a story at this link on the anniversary. They also posted the following flashback videos from 1998 below.

KARE 11 Classic: South-Central MN Tornadoes

20 years ago, a string of tornadoes left a path of destruction in south-central Minnesota. Belinda Jensen filed this report in 1998, as we take a look back at the devastation and how far the area has come. #KARE11Classic

Posted by KARE 11 on Thursday, March 29, 2018

KARE 11 CLASSIC: St. Peter Tornado

20 years ago a tornado wiped out St. Peter, Minnesota.To mark where the town has come since the devastating storm, here's a look back at it, as told by Mark Daly in this #KARE11Classic.

Posted by KARE 11 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Information from National Weather Service, Chanhassen, MN

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels