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Clothes remain hanging in a bedroom closet amid the destruction of a house Wednesday night in Dickinson. Dustin Monke / Dickinson (N.D.) Press

Forecasters confirm Dickinson storm was EF-3 tornado

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A tornado packing winds of about 150 mph struck Dickinson, the National Weather Service determined Thursday as residents began cleaning up homes, trees and vehicles torn apart on the city's south side.

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Gov. John Hoeven, who got a look at the damage, said it was more than he expected. He said as many as 100 National Guard soldiers are being assigned to help with security and cleanup.

"That we did not have a fatality or, at this point, a significant injury, is truly remarkable," Hoeven said.

Hoeven and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said Stark County residents are already eligible for federal aid under an emergency disaster declaration issued for spring flooding. A Federal Emergency Management Agency office is expected to open at Dickinson's Prairie Hills Mall by Saturday.

The twister that struck about 8 p.m. MDT Wednesday destroyed homes, flipped vehicles, uprooted 70-foot trees and knocked out power to most of the city of about 16,000. Officials said power had been restored to all but about 200 people by Thursday afternoon.

The weather service rated the tornado an EF-3 on the enhanced Fujita scale, which ranks the storms based on damage and wind speed.

Inspectors said they found about 20 homes unsafe to live in. Dozens of others could have significant damage, Hoeven said.

Parts of Dickinson's south side were closed off because of potentially dangerous conditions while cleanup continues.

The weather service said the worst damage was along and south of the Heart River, on either side of state Highway 22, south of Dickinson's Interstate 94 business loop.

Michael Fode and his family could see the storm coming.

"We sat and watched our garage go away and trees fly," Fode said.

Smith said his roof and trees were damaged but he was more fortunate than others on the city's south side.

"The neighbor kitty-corner to my backyard, their garage is gone, and then the house next to them, half of their house is gone," he said. "Across the street, a house is gone."

Police Lt. Rod Banyai said some residents suffered cuts and bruises, but he knew of no serious injuries.

The weather service said other areas also reported tornadoes and strong winds. A grain bin was damaged near Glen Ullin in Morton County east of Dickinson. In Burke County, in the northwest part of the state, there were reports of downed power lines, damaged oil storage tanks, a destroyed barn and a destroyed granary.

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