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2021 Ashley-Walcott tornado
EF5 tornado
Ashley-Walcott tornado

Tornado near peak strength at 7:14 PM.
Date June 10, 2021
Times 6:36-8:03 PM
Touchdown location West of Ashley, North Dakota
Injuries ~120
Fatalities 39
Damage $1.1 billion
Areas affected West of Ashley to northeast of Walcott, North Dakota
Part of the
{{{tornado season}}}

The 2021 Ashley-Walcott tornado was an extremely powerful and fast-moving EF5 tornado which devastated much of southeastern North Dakota in the evening of June 10, 2021. Part of a larger outbreak that spawned 151 tornadoes between June 9 and June 13, the tornado covered a distance of 148 miles in its 90 minute existence. Its peak forward speed exceeded 81 miles per hour, making it the fastest-moving tornado to be rated EF3 or higher in recorded history. Probes deployed by a Tornado Intercept Vehicle recorded 10-second sustained winds of 304 miles per hour at 7:14 PM; at the time, these were the highest winds ever recorded on Earth. The Ashely-Walcott tornado's record would be broken in 2023 and twice in 2024.

The tornado utterly destroyed 90% of the town of Ashley, North Dakota, where 15 of the 39 fatalities occurred. Following the tornado, the town was abandoned. Major damage ranging from high-end EF3 to catastrophic EF5-level also occurred in the communities of Ellendale, Fullerton, Clement, Verona, and Lisbon.

Aftermath

Due to the extreme damage caused by the tornado, recovery efforts quickly became a priority at the state and federal level. Dozens of injured people were airlifted to hospitals overnight, while others in more remote locations had to survive mostly on first aid care for several hours until emergency services were able to properly log all of the casualties. Five people died of their injuries after the tornado dissipated and into the early morning of June 11. Around 400 livestock were also killed by the tornado.

Very few buildings were left in the town of Ashley; the town's water supply was also flooded with contaminated water, and local highways were stripped by the tornado and later flooded by heavy rainfall, making it nearly impossible for supplies or repair crews to enter the town. As a result, it was abandoned, with most of its population relocating to the cities of Fargo and Dickinson. Ironically, smaller towns in the tornado's path were able to recover, as the tornado grazed past many of them, rather than impacting them head-on.

Roughly an hour after the tornado dissipated, the same Tornado Intercept Vehicle that deployed the research probes into the funnel was struck by a flash flood and heavily damaged. While the TIV crew were not injured, the damage to their vehicle, along with the deaths of two storm chasers earlier in the season, prompted the United States government to place strict regulations on storm chasing. Partly because of this, very little new information was collected during the 2022 and 2023 seasons; in November 2023, several of the regulations were lifted.

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