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Disaster Relief in Minnesota: Tornadoes

Tornado Relief Overview

Tornado funnel, St. Cloud.Major tornados in Minnesota History include:

  • Aug. 21, 1883: A storm in Dodge and Olmsted counties takes 31 lives and sparks the beginning of the Mayo Clinic.
  • Aug. 20, 1904: A tornado traveling through Waconia, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Stillwater left 14 dead. This storm blew down the High Bridge in St. Paul. Wind speeds reached 110 mph. 
  • June 22, 1919: Three funnel clouds hit Fergus Falls, killing 59 people. 
  • April 5, 1929: A tornado hits the Twin Cities, Lake Minnetonka, Fridley, and Chisago Country. 
  • June 18, 1939: A tornado in the Anoka area injured over 200 people and momentarily sucks the Mississippi river dry.
  • July 20, 1951: Tornado in Richfield and Minneapolis killed five and left $6,000,000 in damages. 
  • June 20, 1957: A tornado in Moorhead left 10 dead and over 100 people injured. 
  • November 17-18, 1958: The center of large tornado covering much of the United States passed through Minnesota. 60 mph reported and over 35 people killed.
  • May 6, 1965: The Fridley tornado, hitting eleven counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, killed 14 people and injured over 600. 
  • March 18, 1968: Earliest verified tornado spotted in Truman, Minnesota. Begins a destructive summer with over 34 recorded tornados. 
  • June 14, 1981: Tornado moves from Edina through downtown Minneapolis to Roseville, killing one person and injuring over 80. Over $47,000,000 in damages. 
  • March 29, 1998: Tornados nearly destroy towns of Comfrey and St.Peter. 
  • 2001: Record number of 72 tornadoes in Minnesota during this season. 

Tornado information taken from:

Major Disasters in Minnesota, by Ruth Bauer Anderson
MNHS call number: Reference Desk 606.1 .A67 2001

Resources on Tornadoes and Tornado Relief in Minnesota

Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Fire, Flood, and Tornado Relief Records, 1937-1939
Correspondence and financial records for five relief projects administered by the Department of Agriculture: floods at Thief River Falls in Aitkin County and in the Snake River Valley, a tornado in southern and southwestern Minnesota, and a forest fire in St. Louis County. 
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (Agriculture Department).

Minnesota Division of Emergency Services, Major Disasters Assistance Files, 1965-1983
Records relating to federal-state disaster assistance agreements. Covers grants to local governments and individuals following tornados in 1965, 1975, and 1978.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (Public Safety Department: Emergency Services Division).

Minnesota Executive Council, Relief Correspondence and Records, 1919-1955
Correspondence and related materials to disaster relief for a wide range of disasters in Minnesota. Includes records for drought, hailstorm, fire, seed grain, flood, and tornado relief. 
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (Executive Council).

Minnesota Executive Council, WPA and Relief Project Files, 1930s-1950s
Files on a variety of work relief, disaster relief, and conservation projects financed by the Executive Council, many with Works Progress Administration funds, and on related administrative and financial matters. Includes files on relief to tornado victims.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota Governor, Miscellaneous Disaster Relief Files, 1871-1920
Accounts and reports regarding a variety of disaster relief, including assistance to the city of Fergus Falls following a 1919 tornado.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Tornado Aftermath News Coverage
The 5 PM and 6 PM news programs (with commercials) from Channel 11 (KARE-TV) on April 1, 1998 and Channel 4 (WCCO-TV) on April 2, 1998. The primary story is tornado clean up efforts in the Minnesota communities of St. Peter, Comfrey, Lonsdale and LeCenter.
MNHS call number: Videotape #909, available to view at the Gale Family Library

Twist of fate, compiled by the St. Peter Kiwanis Club
Collection of personal stories surrounding the 1998 St. Peter tornado.
MNHS call number: F612 .N69 S288 1998

 

The list above is not comprehensive. Interested in more materials about tornadoes in Minnesota? Search the MNHS Catalog to locate other sources. 

Sample Images, Maps, and Artifacts

Search for images related to tornadoes at MNHS through our Collections Online System. Then filter the results using the options in the system's left-hand column.

You may want to try specific terms like:​

  • tornado or cyclone
    • Search both terms and their variations using a search string such as: tornado# OR cyclone#. For more search strategy information visit our image FAQ page. 

Cyclone at Jasper.High Bridge after cyclone, St. Paul.A couple going through their house after it was damaged during a June 19, 1951 tornado outbreak in Anoka and McLeod counties.

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