Mont. Woman Killed as 110+ mph Winds Level House

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – A northeastern Montana woman was killed and her husband injured when a severe thunderstorm spawned a violent wind burst that shattered their farmhouse near Froid, officials said Thursday.

The microburst of wind estimated at 110 mph to 120 mph blew apart the couple’s modular house and left a trail of debris that stretched several hundred yards, said Tanja Fransen with the National Weather Service.

Pat Ryder was trapped in the rubble while his wife, Romona, 59, was hurtled about 250 feet through the air before landing in the yard.

She died of blunt force trauma after being transported to a hospital in nearby Culbertson following the Wednesday night storm, said Roosevelt County sheriff Freedom Crawford. Pat Ryder suffered a broken arm and broken collar bone and was recuperating in a North Dakota hospital on Thursday.

Fransen said two severe thunderstorm bulletins warning of heavy winds and hail were broadcast before the microburst, at 8:17 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.

“It was just a big, strong rush of air that came out of the thunderstorm,” Fransen said.

She said the house was not on a foundation but had been held down by 12 steel cables that snapped. Two neighboring homes were essentially untouched.

Fransen said winds topping 70 mph are recorded only once or twice a year in Montana, although they likely occur more frequently and go unnoticed.

Roosevelt County Commissioner Jim Shanks said the Ryders were wheat farmers and longtime residents of rural Froid.

Shanks said he was told Ryder opened the front door of his home just as the microburst hit. As Ryder struggled to get the door closed again, one of the walls blew in and trapped him.

He eventually freed himself and called 911, Shanks said.

The storm blamed in Romona Ryder’s death was part of a severe weather system that pummeled a large swath of eastern Montana with driving rain and hail.

Downed trees and power lines were reported in Roosevelt County and several houses and outbuildings were damaged, Crawford and Fransen said.

Hours before the storm system hit Froid, golf ball-sized hail was reported more than 300 miles to the southwest, in Absarokee. As the system moved northeast, hail was reported around Billings and in Roosevelt and Daniels counties.

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