The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday morning that a tornado touched down three miles north of Hermosa as part of a series of thunderstorms that hit Custer County Monday afternoon.
Matt Bunkers, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, said the tornado started to develop around 4:30 p.m. about three miles northwest of Hermosa and moved about seven miles northeast across Hwy. 79, causing damage on both sides of the highway.
“The tornado was close to the radar. We had a pretty good sampling of it after it developed,” Bunkers said.
Bunkers said a line of storms moved across the Hills Monday afternoon and early evening, with the storm that produced the tornado forming fairly quickly. When it joined the line of other storms, it produced the tornado and dissipated when it joined yet another storm. The storms also produced up to golf ball-sized hail and torrential rain in some areas.
The tornado plowed through the middle of Spring Creek Acres Subdivision northwest of Hermosa, damaging several homes and leveling several outbuildings and shops. No injuries were reported.
The home of Dave Menken of Hermosa was one of those homes that was severely damaged, with broken windows, a torn off roof and blown down walls. The storm also picked up the Menken’s fifth wheel trailer and flipped it onto its top.
Dave’s daughter, Jordan, said her father was upstairs in the kitchen when the tin roof from the horse barn hit the windows in the living room, shattering every one.
“My dad and his wife were the only ones home at the time,” said Jordan Menken, adding that all the kids were at work. “They said they barely made it into the basement.”
When Menken got home, she couldn’t believe the damage. She also couldn’t believe that her yard decor, a metal yellow butterfly sticking in the front yard, a token for her mother, Tosha, who died in July of cancer, was still standing perfectly in place.
“I was like, ‘no freaking way,’” Menken said.
Menken and her father stayed at the home with their cats and dogs the night of the storm, while the rest of the family stayed at a friend’s home just up the road. They don’t know the total cost of damage to their home yet, but will begin cleaning up soon.
Mike Chase, manager of marketing and member services for Black Hills Electric Cooperative, said the tornado broke 11 of the company’s transmission poles, which subsequently knocked out five substations. The storm also took out four distribution poles in Spring Creek Acres Subdivision. Power was knocked out for most in the area, but crews worked until 1:45 a.m. Tuesday morning to restore power. Power was lost in the Spring Creek and Red Shirt areas, as well as at Fairburn.
Mike Carter, Custer County director of emergency management, said there was also a report of a car struck by lightning on the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park. No injuries were reported.
The City of Custer escaped damage for the most part. There were scattered tree branches throughout town, but city public works director Bob Morrison said, except for a couple of signs that blew over and heavy rain, the storm was pretty much a non-event for the city.