GARRISON High winds accompanied a fast moving storm system that spread across much of central North Dakota Monday night. Weather observers in the Garrison area reported winds ranging from 63 to 75 mph. Hail and heavy rainfall was also reported in some areas affected by the storm.
Winds rose quickly in the Lake Sakakawea region, jeopardizing the safety of those staying in campgrounds. Fortunately, there was enough advance warning of the storm to allow State Parks' personnel to alert campers to the impending danger.
"It could have been a lot worse," said Chad Trautman, Fort Stevenson State Park manager. "All the campers were notified early enough. The tenters all picked up and got out of here."
This trio of campers exited Fort Stevenson State Park, south of Garrison, just prior to the arrival of high winds Monday night. The large branch at their feet broke off the tree on the left. Pictured are, from the left, Connie Knorr, Las Vegas, Nev., and Claudie Schmidt and Linda Amon, both Minot.
Evidence of the storm's impact and fury could be seen throughout the park Tuesday. Some trees were felled. Branches and leaves were strewn about the park. One of the largest branches that broke off from an older tree landed in a pull-though camping spot where moments before a vehicle had been parked.
"Actually, when the high winds were coming up we wanted to protect our cars from potential hail," said Connie Knorr, Las Vegas, Nev. "We were trying to get our vehicles under the shelter of heavier trees."
Knorr was staying in a camper at the park. She and fellow campers watched the storm approach. They decided it would be best to seek solid shelter. They opted to drive to the nearby home of one of the camper's relatives to wait out the storm. When they returned to the park they discovered a very large tree branch had broken off and fallen on the very spot they had chosen to protect their vehicles from possible hail.
"If we had parked there it would have done a lot of damage," said Knorr while surveying the site Tuesday morning.
"We heard a lot of wind and the heavy rain," added Linda Amon, Minot, when asked about the approach of the storm and the decision to get out of the way.
On the south side of the lake, at Lake Sakakawea State Park, winds were also believed to have surpassed 60 mph. As was the case at Fort Stevenson, several trees were felled but no damage was reported to camper units.
According to Keith Orth, Lake Sakakawea State Park, occupants of four tents pitched in the park huddled in their vehicles and waited out the storm.
"No real severe damage," said Orth. "We lost some trees, but some of them were older ones anyway."
Some damage occurred to the on-the-water gasoline facility at Fort Stevenson's Garrison Marina. However, the damage was fixed by park employees by late Tuesday morning.
"I don't know the exact wind speed, some were saying 75 to 80 miles per hour," said Trautman. "A lot of trees lost limbs. We had some courtesy dock issues but got that going again."
Some campers who elected to ride out the Monday night storm at Fort Stevenson did so inside brick comfort stations. Trautman said he discovered several people huddled there while making a campground check at 10:30 p.m. Monday and again about 1 a.m. Tuesday.
"There were campers holed up there, which are good shelters. They were surviving it okay," said Trautman.
Trautman noted that, if there was a good side to the storm it was that it happened on a weekday when park visitation is far less than what occurs on weekends.
"If we could plan them, yes, a weekday would be better," said Trautman.