1998 Minnesota March Tornado Outbreak

Feb 23, 2015
23
5
1
Minnesota
Eighteen years ago today Minnesota experienced the worst March Tornado outbreak on record with 14 tornadoes touching down across Southern Minnesota. The strongest two were an F4 which destroyed the small town of Comfrey MN and the F3 that damaged a large part of St Peter MN. Here is a wikipedia link to the event. The National Weather Service in Minneapolis used to have a great section on this event but it seems to have disappeared. :( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Comfrey–St._Peter_tornado_outbreak
 

CoryDoffing

Enthusiast
Apr 3, 2019
3
2
1
Minnesota
Eighteen years ago today Minnesota experienced the worst March Tornado outbreak on record with 14 tornadoes touching down across Southern Minnesota. The strongest two were an F4 which destroyed the small town of Comfrey MN and the F3 that damaged a large part of St Peter MN. Here is a wikipedia link to the event. The National Weather Service in Minneapolis used to have a great section on this event but it seems to have disappeared. :( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Comfrey–St._Peter_tornado_outbreak
Some of the old information for this event is available on the Archive.org site.

https://web.archive.org/web/19980524084717/http://www.crh.noaa.gov/mpx/stptor.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20121017164528/http://www.crh.noaa.gov/mpx/?n=1998mar29intro

It's too bad there wasn't more video of this. Here is a map I made of the tornado locations. I'd be curious to know if the tornado near Fulda was anti-cyclonic, since it was listed as being after the main tornado touched down to its east, and if the F0 at 3:25 may have been a satellite tornado.
 

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Feb 23, 2015
23
5
1
Minnesota
I remember before the Tonados hit Comfrey and St Peter there were Doppler indicated Tornadoes that resulted in Tornado Warnings being issued in other parts of Minnesota. I was working in Albert Lea MN in. radio at the time and due to our Farm and Home show that weekend I had to actually be in the building on a Sunday afternoon. I remember the Tornado Watch was issued at about 1:30 PM CST and went into. effect at 2 PM and was a PDS watch. Later that afternoon we had a. Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued and not long after that the sirens went off and we were under a Tornado Warning. We went right into our simulcasting mode and people came back from the show to help us run the station. Nothnig touched down in our neck of the woods and later that afternoon all hell broke loose.
 

CoryDoffing

Enthusiast
Apr 3, 2019
3
2
1
Minnesota
I remember before the Tonados hit Comfrey and St Peter there were Doppler indicated Tornadoes that resulted in Tornado Warnings being issued in other parts of Minnesota. I was working in Albert Lea MN in. radio at the time and due to our Farm and Home show that weekend I had to actually be in the building on a Sunday afternoon. I remember the Tornado Watch was issued at about 1:30 PM CST and went into. effect at 2 PM and was a PDS watch. Later that afternoon we had a. Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued and not long after that the sirens went off and we were under a Tornado Warning. We went right into our simulcasting mode and people came back from the show to help us run the station. Nothnig touched down in our neck of the woods and later that afternoon all hell broke loose.
That was an accidental chase day for me. It was the end of the Spring Break for my wife (then gf), and I had to drive her back to college in Decorah, IA from the Twin Cities. I was aware of the moderate risk so I brought my weather radio with me and tried my best to get WCCO in. Did not have a cell phone at that time.

For the ride back, I left Decorah about 4:30, right about the time the tornado was hitting Comfrey. All I knew then is that there were tornado warnings. 52 is a NW/SE road, so I was driving NW towards the supercell as it was tracking ENE across the state. By 5:30 I was in Rochester, about the time St. Peter got hit. By this point I could get WCCO in and started to hear that there was a confirmed tornado in Comfrey.

By the time I got to Cannon Falls it was very dark and raining, but I could see the tremendous amount of lightning in front of me. Out of caution I stopped at a restaurant in Cannon Falls for about 15 minutes to let the storm pass. I then resumed driving and made a quick stop at my cousin's near Hampton to check the radar.

I got back in my car to finish my ride home, and near Vermillion a guy was pushing a barn or shed off of the road with a Bobcat. I thought "oh, they must have gotten some wind damage." It wasn't until a few months later after all the damage surveys were published that I realized the final tornado from that supercell had hit that exact spot I drove by near Vermillion, probably about 20 minutes prior to me getting there!

One of my memories from that night was right after I got home I flipped on 'CCO and they were having people call in. The first reports were just starting to come out of St. Peter. A guy called, and very dramatically described how St. Peter had been destroyed. He was so over the top with the way he was speaking, it sounded like he was making it up. After he hung up the meteorologist assured everyone it probably was not as bad as he was saying, but low and behold it was every bit as bad!
 

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