Severe weather moved through Richland County on Tuesday night causing widespread damage. A number of areas were without power for several hours and residents of Fairview were without power until after noon on Wednesday.
While a significant amount of damage was recorded in the area, officials have ruled out a tornado. According to Grant Hicks of the Glasgow branch of the National Weather Service, the damage was a result of straight-line winds.
Straight-line wind is wind that comes out of a thunderstorm. If these winds meet or exceed 58 miles per hours then the storm is classified as severe by the National Weather Service. These winds are produced by the downward momentum in the downdraft region of a thunderstorm.
Hicks said a Fairview resident measured the top speed of the wind at 84 mph and the straight-line wind occurred at approximately 12:10 a.m.
The initial report for Fairview was that a tornado had went through the area. Shortly after, officials leaned toward straight-line wind. NWS officials launched a drone on Wednesday morning in an effort to determine whether or not there was a tornado. The data collected from the drone and from other sources pointed toward a straight-line wind.
If the NWS determines there was a tornado, it would be the first tornado in Richland County since 2016.
Jon and Joel Potts were two of the Fairview residents who saw and felt the effects of Tuesday’s storm. The two were busy picking up branches and debris on their property on Wednesday morning, like many Fairview residents were after the storm.
According to Jon, he and Joel had to hold up part of their house's wall due to the wind, which he said came from the west. Jon said winds were making the wall fold in.
Jon said he guessed the winds were around 100 miles per hour. Along with branches, the men also lost a windmill on the property. Joel and Jon said it had been standing in the ground for around 30 years, maybe more, and two-foot stakes were holding the windmill down. They said the windmill had never been toppled in the past but after Tuesday's storm, it was knocked over and laying on the ground with the stakes fully sticking out of the ground.
In Sidney, Emergency Management Director Kale Rasmussen said Sidney fared better than Fairview with minimal reports of damage, mostly limbs and debris.
Two crews of employees from Sidney Sugars rolled up their sleeves and got to work on Wednesday morning cleaning up city parks. About 30 employees divided up and removed limbs and debris from all of the city’s parks. The debris was stacked in piles ready for pickup by noon.
There were no reports or injuries as a result of the storms as of Wednesday morning.
Also according to the NWS, Northeast Montana could see more thunderstorms Wednesday and strong thunderstorms including hail on Thursday.
The report states, "Today brings a chance of thunderstorms to the region but they should remain below severe levels. The exception will be Phillips county where stronger storms could track northeast from Central Montana in the late afternoon and evening hours."
Storms Thursday could bring large hail of two inches or greater. This size of hail will damage vehicles and can cause bodily injury if you are caught in it. Winds could be in excess of 70 mph. Winds this strong would damage rooftops and cause large tree limbs to come down or even uproot trees. Heavy rainfall in excess of inches inches of more is possible with some of the storms. This could contribute to some brief flash flooding, especially in towns with underpasses or low areas that tend to flood easily.
Anyone with photos of damage can send them to email@example.com and we will compile them and post the photos on our website and social media.