SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — What started as Saturday night coverage of a dangerous storm capable of producing a tornado quickly escalated as damage reports started to flood in.
The day was May 30, 1998, and at 8:38 p.m. a tornado hit the town of Spencer in McCook County. In the video above, you can see how KELOLAND meteorologists covered the storm as tornado warnings continued throughout the night.
KELOLAND producers and reporters also joined the coverage as reports from authorities and people in the town started to come in.
“There’s a lot of damage in Spencer. Buildings, houses have been destroyed. So far, no reports of injuries. Firefighters, rescue personnel are on their way to find out, find people,” KELOLAND This Morning producer Melody Morton said.
The tornado ended up killing six people and more than 100 people suffered injuries.
On the night of the tornado, KELOLAND’s Don Jorgensen spoke with the hospital in Mitchell and reported more health care workers were being called in to help treat people coming from Spencer.
KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke spoke with then-Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls about the trouble first responders were having with getting to Spencer because of the ongoing weather.
Reflecting on the tornado 25 years later, Brad Stiefvater said he recalled first responders coming to Spencer from nearby South Dakota communities and event communities in Iowa and Nebraska.
Stiefvater, now retired, was the McCook County Emergency Manager in 1998.
“You can just imagine like a bomb went off in town, the gas lines are roaring, people are crawling out of the wood to the responders from everywhere,” Stiefvater said.
Before the tornado, Spencer had a population of about 315 people. Today, the sign outside of town now reads 154.
KELOLAND Chief Meteorologist Jay Trobec recalled the hot and humid day set the table for powerful storms.
“It’s pretty rare that we get an F-4 tornado around here because you are talking about winds that could reach speeds up to 260 miles an hour,” Trobec said.
Trobec also recalled the power was out in Spencer before the tornado hit so there was no warning siren in the town.