Weather Forecast


Here's what happened

The following description of the weather events of June 16, 1992, was written by the Sioux Falls, S.D., National Weather Service Weather Forecast office to commemorate the 10th anniversary in 2002:

Commonly referred as the Chandler-Lake Wilson tornado, this tornado destroyed more than 75 homes with another 90 homes, 10 businesses, a church and school damaged. The tornado caused over $50 million in property damage, resulting in more than 40 injuries and one fatality. Based on a detailed damage assessment by the National Weather Service, it is estimated this F5 tornado packed winds in excess of 260 mph as it tore through the residential area of Chandler. This was the only F5 tornado to occur in the United States in 1992.

The Chandler-Lake Wilson tornado initially touched down shortly after 5 p.m. in extreme northwest Nobles County, near Leota. The tornado completely destroyed a two-house farmstead just east of Leota as it strengthened and churned its way northeast toward Chandler and Lake Wilson. The "maxi-tornado" reached its greatest size and strength as it came over the hill immediately south of Chandler, plowing into the residential area of west Chandler at approximately 5:18 pm. The giant twister was on the ground for over an hour, traveling approximately 35 miles across southwest Minnesota, from northwest Nobles County, through Murray County and into southeast Lyon County. It had a maximum width of three-quarters of a mile in the Chandler-Lake Wilson area.

The devastating Chandler-Lake Wilson tornado on June 16, 1992, was part of a major severe weather event to sweep across the Northern Plains. A major spring storm began developing in the western United States over the weekend of June 13-14, 1992.

The storm ejected a minor upper air impulse across the Northern Plains on June 13, triggering severe weather across the extreme northwest corner of South Dakota. Golf-ball-sized hail and 10½ inches of rain destroyed crops and killed more than 500 sheep in Harding County, S.D. This event was a forewarning of the strength of the main storm which still lurked over the western United States.

On Tuesday, June 16, 1992, residents of eastern South Dakota and southwest Minnesota experienced the full fury of the storm as it moved from the Rocky Mountain Region across the Upper Midwest. At least two dozen tornadoes were reported that day, with more than three times that many reports of large hail and strong winds, causing widespread swaths of damage to crops, buildings and other personal property across much of eastern South Dakota and southwest Minnesota. The first tornado, spawned by thunderstorms known as "supercell thunderstorms," touched down in Charles Mix County of south central South Dakota around 1 p.m. The last tornado was reported shortly before midnight that evening, ending an 11-hour period of intense and life-threatening severe weather across eastern South Dakota and southwest Minnesota.