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Small Montana community devastated by tornado

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Posted at 11:07 AM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 13:07:27-04

In between Opheim and Scobey, you'll find the community of Glentana, where it's peaceful for the most part, until last week when a tornado touched down, doing lots of damage to a lot of the property in the area and giving lots of locals a scare they won’t forget for a long time.

Tornadoes are not common in Big Sky country, but on July 18, 2022, an EF-2 tornado hit Valley County. Tornadoes are ranked EF0 to EF5, with EF5 being the strongest. So two isn't the worst - but it still caused a lot of damage.

This was the strongest tornado in Montana since June 28, 2018, when there was an EF-2 tornado near the community of Capitol. This was also the strongest tornado in Valley County since June 25, 1975, when there was an F-2 tornado.

The tornado touched down at 5:47 pm about 5.5 miles southwest of Glentana. The tornado then traveled northeast and directly hit Glentana at 5:53 pm. The tornado lifted at 5:56 pm about 2.4 miles northeast of Glentana.

This tornado was on the ground for eight miles and had an average path width of 457 yards. The maximum wind speed associated with this tornado was 120 miles per hour.

"This was the only one we've had so far this year,” meteorologist Brad Mickelson said. “But in this area that we watch over, there have been about an average about one per year. There are four things you need for a tornado. You need moisture, you need lift and you need instability in the atmosphere. And you also need what's called wind shear. Not many tornados have done too much but this one directly hit the town. We haven’t seen that.”

Glentana isn’t far from the Canadian border, with seven people calling it home.

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Two of those seven are Gene and Patty St. John. They were away from home on July 18th when it hit, and what they came back to was much different from what they left. They lost numerous grain bins, a Quonset hut, and a lot of hard work.

"The quonset was pretty curved and just came down on the equipment inside,” Gene said. “The other went over on the bins next to it.”

Their son, Scott, who was not available to talk for this story, was home in their shop when he heard the walls shaking. He was able to get out from under a truck after it got picked up and hid under a combine while the tornado blew right through their farm and lives.

"We kind of missed out on that major cleanup, but our son did an excellent job,” Patty said. “It was quite a shock to hear what happened.” No lives were lost, but plenty of farm equipment was.

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When Jean and Patty got home, they were surrounded by debris, with parts of their lives now destroyed.

Fortunately, they're also surrounded by a lot more than the other five Glentana residents trucks, trailers, material, you name it.

There is plenty of support to give the St John's hope. “I'll tell you what it’s a pretty good community you're talking about community, this is a friend's truck we used, I didn’t even know he had it but it’s helped. And that trailer is a really good friend from up north. And we got that filled with a lot of stuff that was in the shop.”

The Saint Johns estimated more than $1,000,000 in damages between destroyed buildings, bins, and equipment. But they know they'll build back thanks to their grit and community that has Glentana's back. Even with all of this damage, life goes on with a smile on the St John's faces. “The brown shed next to our house has been there forever and I wouldn’t have minded it blowing away,” Gene joked. “Of course that didn’t move an inch, but we’re still here and we won’t build back overnight, but we’ll build back.”


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