Trevor Steeke went out at midnight on Thursday, Jan. 14, to check on the lambs and goats in his hoop barn near Rhame, N.D. There were seven brand new lambs, but everything was fine, even as 90 mph winds blew through southwestern North Dakota.
“Then I went out at 6, and we had no barn,” Steeke said.The Steeke barn was just one casualty of the hurricane force winds that blew through the region in recent days. Gusts in excess of 90 mph were common across Montana and the Dakotas on Jan. 13 and 14, as were reports of barns and outbuildings being lifted and carried away. A semi overturned across Interstate 94 east of Bismarck on Thursday.
The winds also blew fast-moving flames from southern North Dakota into northern South Dakota. According to the Lemmon, S.D., Fire Department, a major grass fire, dubbed “Windy Fire,” was reported the afternoon of Jan. 14 in Adams County, N.D., leading to the evacuation of farms and ranches in the area. The fire had traveled about 20 miles, at some times four miles wide, by Friday morning. The southern progression of the fire stopped at the Grand River at 11:04 p.m., but the west side of the fire continued into Friday morning, with strong winds still blowing through the area.
Fire crews and law enforcement from across northwestern South Dakota and southwestern North Dakota responded to the fire, which, as of Friday morning, had burned an estimated 10,000 acres and went through 19 occupied farms and ranches. While no occupied residential structures had been lost to the fire, the Lemmon Fire Department reported a ranch headquarters had experienced extensive damage. Two firefighters were injured in the fire and received medical attention at West River Regional Medical Center in Hettinger, N.D.
Steeke said their older children, one an ag teacher and one a college student in Kansas, offered to come home to help, but with the assistance of friends and neighbors, the Steekes were able to tell them to stay where they were.