Tornado Tears Through Montana City

A tornado ripped off most of the roof of a sports arena in Billings, Mont., and also damaged other buildings on Sunday, the police said. No deaths or major injuries were reported. About 20 members of the Montana National Guard and police watched over the damaged properties Sunday night and early Monday morning, Sgt. Kevin Iffland of the Billings Police Department said. City workers worked past nightfall to clean up debris and devastation left by the tornado. The authorities hoped to clear Main Street and reopen the heavily traveled thoroughfare for the Monday morning commute. Hundreds of cars were backed up on the northbound section of the street Sunday evening as onlookers slowed to look at the mess on the southbound side.The tornado was first reported around 4:30 p.m., said Lt. Mark Cady, of the Billings police. The tornado approached the city from the southeast, doing the most damage in two neighborhoods, the Heights and the Lower Heights, before heading northwest, he said.

Main Street Casino staff members watching a second thunderstorm approaching after a tornado in Billings, Mont., on Sunday.

A tornado ripped off most of the roof of a sports arena in Billings, Mont., and also damaged other buildings on Sunday, the police said. No deaths or major injuries were reported.

About 20 members of the Montana National Guard and police watched over the damaged properties Sunday night and early Monday morning, Sgt. Kevin Iffland of the Billings Police Department said. City workers worked past nightfall to clean up debris and devastation left by the tornado. The authorities hoped to clear Main Street and reopen the heavily traveled thoroughfare for the Monday morning commute. Hundreds of cars were backed up on the northbound section of the street Sunday evening as onlookers slowed to look at the mess on the southbound side.The tornado was first reported around 4:30 p.m., said Lt. Mark Cady, of the Billings police. The tornado approached the city from the southeast, doing the most damage in two neighborhoods, the Heights and the Lower Heights, before heading northwest, he said.

The tornado also tore off more than half of the roof of the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, leaving debris from it strewn over a three-quarter-mile area, Lieutenant Cady said. The arena, which seats 10,000 people, holds indoor football games, rodeos and concerts.

A casino, a bar and a laundry in the city’s downtown area were also damaged, a glass shop was leveled and some gas mains were ruptured.

At a McDonald’s restaurant, about 20 people took cover in the walk-in freezer when they saw the tornado coming, Lieutenant Cady said. The tornado blew out all the glass from the building.

The tornado was also accompanied by floods that left cars stranded on roads under deep water. Runoff from the storm overwhelmed the city’s sewer system.

“Manhole covers were blowing off because of the pressure from the water beneath,” Lieutenant Cady said. “It’s a mess right now.”

The tornado was part of a storm system moving through the area that also dropped hail measuring from 1 to 2 ¾ inches in Bighorn and Yellowstone Counties, the National Weather Service said in a local storm report. An amateur radio operator reported the tornado in Billings, located in Yellowstone County, to the weather service at 4:32 p.m.

Billings Logan International Airport reported 2.24 inches of rain from the storm, setting a record for the date. The old rainfall record for this date was 0.47 inches, set in 1947.

Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund walked out of the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Mont. after a tornado destroyed the 12,000-seat facility on Sunday.

The storm left as quickly as it appeared, and a half-hour later, the sun was shining, officials said. Some residents who wanted to see the damage created additional work for emergency workers as traffic became congested along Main Street, officials said.

“Main Street is the busiest road in Montana,” Lieutenant Cady said. Officials were trying to dissuade people from driving to the city to tour the damage, he said.

Source : nytimes