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Published June 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

North Dakota farmers escape tornado

Kevin Mudder was putting up hay with Dave Narloch and Bob Lewis at the American Crystal railroad coal siding site just west of Ardoch, N.D., on Friday evening when he heard what he thought was a runaway freight train rumbling right toward him.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, INFORUM

Kevin Mudder was putting up hay with Dave Narloch and Bob Lewis at the American Crystal railroad coal siding site just west of Ardoch, N.D., on Friday evening when he heard what he thought was a runaway freight train rumbling right toward him.

He turned around and saw a tornado on the ground, about a quarter-mile away, on the other side of the road.

“It looked like the devil coming at you, like a giant funnel,” he said. “It was massive. It was an awesome sight.”

He wanted to take a picture with his cell phone, but quickly decided that might not be the wisest decision of his life.

“I seen it drop out of the clouds, seen it hit the ground. I didn’t think it took just a split second,” said Mudder, who was driving a tractor at the site. “I was more scared to get to cover.”

Narloch and Lewis ran for a prefab concrete shed on the property.

Mudder, who had knee surgery just three weeks ago, couldn’t jump from the big rig and dash to safety. So, he floored the tractor and lumbered toward the building at what seemed like a turtle’s pace.

“Dave was holding the door open for me to get there,” he said.

By the time he reached the building, the twister, which he estimates was about a quarter-mile wide, was just 500 feet behind him, but had risen above the ground; debris – dirt and trees, mostly – flying all around.

Then it was gone. After the storm passed, they ventured outside to find trees and limbs littered throughout the area.

“The amount of trees that went down is amazing. The wind must have been blowing 70 miles an hour,” Mudder said. “It sounded like a freight train coming by. I know that’s what they all say, but it did. That’s as close as I want to come to one.”


The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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