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Southeast SD town hit hard by tornado

DELMONT, S.D. -- There's mangled trees, houses destroyed and a 100-year-old Lutheran church has collapsed. Delmont, a town of fewer than 300 people, was hit hard by a tornado Sunday afternoon. Sunday school class huddled in basement bathroom as S...

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A heavily damaged Zion Lutheran Church is pictured Sunday in Delmont. The town of fewer than 300 people was hit hard by a tornado Sunday morning, which injured nine people and destroyed approximately 25 structures. Candy DenOuden / Forum News Service

DELMONT, S.D. - There’s mangled trees, houses destroyed and a 100-year-old Lutheran church has collapsed.

Delmont, a town of fewer than 300 people, was hit hard by a tornado Sunday afternoon.

Sunday school class huddled in basement bathroom as SD tornado destroyed church

State and local officials were working the scene shortly after the tornado, which scattered debris everywhere and damaged homes.

Douglas County State's Attorney Craig Parkhurst said 25 structures were destroyed, including Zion Lutheran Church and the town’s fire hall. He said there were no fatalities and nine people were injured.


Resources pour into storm-stricken SD town

Officials said Sunday school was going on at the church during the time of the storm, and children were advised to go to the basement.

‘Right in the middle of it’

Todd Gross, 46, who is on the Delmont City Council, said his house was hit by the tornado.

“My house is in better shape than some, but we were right in the middle of it,” Gross said in a phone interview with Forum News Service. “You can see I still have a house, but the attached garage is gone and the windows are broken out. It’s not good.”

Gross heard about the storm on TV and went outside to check it out. When he went for a walk, he could see debris in the air and then went home to get his family to safety.

“You could hear it hit,” he said. “It went really fast. It was over within 15 to 30 seconds.”

Gross, who graduated from Delmont High School in 1988, said his family was OK.


“That was the first tornado I’ve ever been associated with and I don’t want to be with one ever again. It was scary,” he said. “We’ve got quite a cleanup. It’s bad, just not good.”

Scott Redd, a 1980 graduate of Delmont High School, was in Sioux Falls when the tornado hit. He saw the storm was heading toward the town in which his brother, Mike, and mother, Nola, still live. When Redd, 52, arrived to the edge of town Sunday afternoon, officials had it blocked off to ensure safety. He anticipated being able to enter the town later in the day.

“It’s hard to look at,” Redd said in a phone interview with Forum News Service. “It’s a mess.”

Redd said the tornado cut through the northeast part of town and “took out several houses.”

“We can see the path of where it went,” Redd said.

‘I’m lucky to be here’

Scott Peters said he was within 10 feet of the tornado when it whipped through his yard. It spared the exterior of his home but the inside was shaken up and a nearby shed was demolished.

"I was right by it,” he said. “It went right past my window and there was all sorts of debris wrapped up in it."


He lives at 101 N. Seaman, directly across from the Zion Lutheran Church, which was practically sawed in half.

"Some of my stuff is across town," he said. "But it didn't take much of the house. I guess that's the way it goes."

All of it is replaceable, he said.

“I'm lucky to be here and be standing here right now,” he said. “That's good enough for me."

Brent Loneman is a lifelong Delmont resident. He wasn't at home at the time of the storm and he was glad his wife and children were not home, either. The storm left very few clues that a trailer home used to sit on Loneman's lot.

"We'd all be dead," he said. "I'm sure of it."

Loneman said he was as surprised as anyone when he got the call regarding his home.

"You look at the forecast and there was nothing," he said.


There are at least two staging areas in Delmont, one on the south side of town for emergency responders, and another on the west side for media and volunteers.

At the media area, Highway Patrol has set up a checkpoint for volunteers and large equipment. Volunteers are pouring in with things like heavy equipment, saws and manpower to help with cleanup efforts.

Parkhurst said Delmont residents have about a half an hour to go clear out, then officials have asked all people to evacuate the town overnight. He said there are safety concerns, including downed power lines and possible propane leaks.

Mitchell, other areas hit hard with rain

South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety, at the request of Governor Dennis Daugaard, has conducted a partial activation of the state Emergency Operations Center in Pierre to coordinate the local response to the town of Delmont where the tornado touched down. Gov. Daugaard was arriving to Delmont at about 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

After law enforcement spotted a tornado at 10:30 a.m. 6 miles north of Wagner in Charles Mix County, the tornado eventually hit Delmont and made its way north.

Mitchell received a substantial amount of rain as the storm moved north, but officials said there was no damage in the city. Local dispatch reported only a tree down and flooding in Mitchell.

Although the immediate threat had passed, Mitchell Public Safety issued an alert at 1:30 p.m. that said a tornado watch would remain in effect until 9 p.m.


Storm shelters in Mitchell are located at City Hall, at 612 N. Main St., and the Davison County Courthouse, at 200 E. Fourth Ave.

Sanborn County was also in a tornado warning Sunday afternoon, but officials said there were rotating clouds and heavy rains, but no confirmed tornadoes in the county.

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