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Lee Conkey posted these photos showing the damage from a "supercell" thunderstorm that hit his farm 13 miles northeast of Miller on Saturday evening with high winds, hail, 4.5 inches of rain and a tornado. Photos courtesy of Lee Conkey

Two tornadoes rip up trees, damage farms in central SD

MILLER, S.D.— Lee Conkey watched to the west Saturday night as a tornado came right at his farm home 13 miles northeast of Miller in central South Dakota. The hail and winds and rain already were doing damage to his corn and soybean fields.

"I stood and watched it approach until debris was hitting the house," he said on Monday. "I noticed the flagpole was snapped off and my mailbox was down."

He quickly joined his wife and two children, ages 15 and 11, in the basement.

"They were scared," he said.

With good reason. The tornado ripped big limbs from large trees, hit his calf shelter and "tore it to pieces," he said. "We've got trees on top of grain bins and a pile of trees in the yard as big as a two-story house." It took shingles and siding off the house.

"We had golf-ball-sized hail. It rained about four-and-a-half inches in about an hour and a half. One rain gauge was broke by the hail, the other was overflowing."

Nobody got injured, he said.

His cows and calves, most of them Black Angus, maybe have welts and bruises, he said. "But there were no fatalities."

On Sunday, a team from the National Weather Service surveyed the damage and reported two tornadoes hit the area, rated as EF-0 tornadoes. The one that hit Conkey's place had winds up to 75 mph, a track of about a half-mile long and 10-yards wide, hitting shortly after 8 p.m., Saturday about 13 miles northeast of Miller.

The second tornado hit a couple miles or so farther east, where it destroyed a calf shed on the Chris Johnsen farm, with winds up to 85 mph, a path length of 0.1 mile and path width of 10 yards.

On the Johnsen farm, about two miles east of Conkey's, the calf barn was tossed about 100 feet, a fence line was destroyed, a chicken coop was severely damaged and sheet metal was ripped off from another barn. A bale in a feeder was picked up and destroyed by the twister, and chemical and water tanks were tossed about 50 feet.

"Hail damage to the house was also significant with dented siding and broken windows noted on both houses on the farmstead," according to the weather service report.

Conkey said he was waiting to hear from crop insurance adjusters.

"I imagine we will be doing some replanting," he said.