SPENCER, S.D. (KELO) –On May 30th, 1998, five tornados formed over Southeastern South Dakota.
“It was a hot humid day, one of those days you knew thunderstorms were going form,” said Keloland Chief Meteorologist Jay Trobec.
One of those thunderstorms would produce a tornado not far from Spencer.
Trobec says the conditions were just right, a combination of heat and humidity would create the spin that spawned what would later be determined to be an F-4 tornado.
“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,” said Trobec.
The tornado killed six people and injured more than a hundred others.
Most of the houses in Spencer were leveled. Brad Stiefvater was the Emergency Manager for McCook county at the time. He says they felt as prepared as they could be.
“We had spotters, warning was good, the spotters were going into that town when the sticks were still falling. those are the guys that got in their and witnessed people crawling out of their, that was huge 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,” said Stiefvater
Those first responders sent out the word that a lot of help was needed. The injured were taken to nearby Salem, and heavy equipment was brought in. For those first on the scene, the devastation was hard to fathom. It would later be determined that the tornado siren in Spencer did not go off.
“The tornado before it got into Spencer had knocked out power so there was no warning siren warning of the storm, if you weren’t watching television you probably didn’t hear the warning as a result,” said Trobec.
Today Spencer looks a lot different, fewer and fewer of the 154 residents remember that night 25 years ago. We all hope that with today’s upgraded weather forecasting technology and warning systems no other community will have to go through what Spencer did.