Most Storm Chasers don’t hide out in South Dakota waiting for the next tornado. They most certainly would be waiting for quite a while. In fact, South Dakota’s very first tornado of the 2019 season just touched down for about 45 seconds this past weekend on June 15th.
But this rare occurrence in Estelline, SD just off I-29 is not the interesting part of the story.
South Dakota’s first twister of the season was anticyclonic—meaning it was rotating in a clockwise motion. Approximately only 1% of tornadoes in the northern hemisphere are anticyclonic. The National Weather Service used its radar data and video to determine the rotational direction of the tornado.
The estimated wind speeds topped off at 75 mph and its journey of destruction was one-tenth of a mile long. It only knocked over seven trees and collapsed the metal roof of a nearby shed.
Local Storm Chaser
Local resident, Becky Bates caught the rare anticyclonic tornado on video as she was storm chasing with her family. When interviewed by CNN she said, “It honestly didn’t seem unusual to me. This was my first catch. I just chase for fun. But it touched down a couple of times while we sat and watched.”
Although Becky mentioned that this was her first storm chase, the fact that the tornado didn’t look unusual demonstrates just how tough it can be to determine the rotation of this natural phenomenon.
History of Anticyclonic Tornadoes
Earlier this month on June 3rd, marked the 39th anniversary of one of the most disastrous tornado storms to hit Nebraska. The Grand Island Tornado event consisted of 7 tornadoes that touched down in less than 3 hours. Of the 7 tornadoes, 3 of them were anticyclonic.
The Tornadoes rolled in at around 8:45 pm one after another before settling at 11:30 that same night. The pack of wild tornadoes tore through south-central Nebraska killing five, and injuring 200. A total of 475 housing units and 47 businesses were demolished. The final cost of damages reached nearly $300 million by the time the evening was over.
Many researchers and meteorologists say it is possible that more anticyclonic tornadoes occur than we may realize. But due to how weak they generally are, they go unnoticed. If it wasn’t for this uncommon rotation of South Dakota’s first tornado, this news probably wouldn’t exist.