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This photo taken Tuesday morning and submitted by reader Nikki Spethman shows the damage at Weydahl Field, the Dunn County Airport, where the hanger has been destroyed and airplanes are overturned.

Dunn County picking up pieces after storm knocks out power

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KILLDEER -- Downed trees and power outages continued to be a problem for Dunn County on Tuesday afternoon following storms Monday evening -- four years to the day that a tornado hit Dickinson.

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Denise Brew, Dunn County's emergency manager, said Montana Dakota Utilities is working on restoring power from eastern Montana to Dunn County. The cities of Killdeer, Dunn Center, Dodge and Halliday all lost power.

In all, Brew said there was only one injury reported in Killdeer and it was a person in an RV. She was not sure of the person's status.

Early notification of the storm might have played a key role in keeping residents safe.

"I started sending out alerts, basically starting with the law enforcement and giving them a shout-out so they would know to keep a heads up," Brew said. "I don't think people thought the storm was going to be as severe as it was."

That was especially true in Halliday and Killdeer, which Brew said suffered the worst damage in the county.

"That was some storm," lifelong Killdeer resident Luella Sandvick said Tuesday morning as she walked past several uprooted trees in the city park on Central Avenue South. "My power went off around 8:30 p.m. (Monday) and it wasn't until 9:15 this morning that they got it back on."

The National Weather Service in Bismarck reported that a trained spotter clocked wind gusts of 85 mph in Killdeer around 8:35 p.m. Monday, along with multiple reports of 4- to 8-inch diameter trees snapped or broken.

Trained spotters clocked wind speeds of 60 to 85 miles per hour across Dunn County during Monday's storms, according to information from the National Weather Service.

The wind speeds were so high that Dunn Center City Auditor Lynnette Nodland said a combine that sits on the west side of a road as drivers come into town was blown to the east side of the road.

"We have a lot of trees down, especially in the city park, which suffered a lot of damage," she said. "When I came in at 8 a.m., half of the town was still out of power and MDU crews are in the area working getting power back."

Not able to see the damage firsthand because he was at the Denver airport, Killdeer mayor Dan Dolechek said his wife has been keeping him abreast of the situation in Killdeer through cellphone pictures.

"It doesn't sound good," said Dolechek, who planned to be back in town Tuesday afternoon to survey the damage for himself. "Trees are down all over and I hear that out street department has been out clearing branches and debris from the roads all night."

Brew said the power outages might have prevented people from being able to listen to updates on TV or radios. But because many people used smartphones to keep them alerted about the storms, which helped word get out quickly.

"There were a lot of snapped poles caused by the storm, so there was a concern about keeping people off the roads and not behind the wheel of their cars, unless they were emergency responders," she said. "There were still problems with people driving around and looking around, which is frustrating for the police officers and ambulance drivers."

Denise Sandvick, Luella's daughter-in-law, and her family watched the storm roll in behind them as they pulled into their driveway on Fifth Avenue Northwest in Killdeer a few minutes before the storm hit.

"When we got to Richardton, we could see that the storm was going to hit fast and we made it home 10 minutes before it."

When the storm ended, Denise Sandvick said the loss of trees was evident.

"We lost huge, 300-year-old trees and sad to see them all gone," she said. "Our dog got trapped in his dog house when one of the trees fell, and we couldn't get him out until (Tuesday) morning. Things are starting to get back to normal this morning, though, and the cleanup crews have been great about getting out last night and this morning trying to clean up. I could hear and see the people working on getting the lights back on in town, and I appreciate them for staying up all night to do it."

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