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Sheridan County Declares Disaster After Tornado

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Sheridan County officials have declared a disaster emergency in the wake of one of the most powerful and deadly tornadoes to touch down in Montana, a county commissioner said Wednesday.

The declaration will allow the county to receive assistance from the state and levy a two-mill emergency tax on residents if the damage warrants it, commissioner Bill Nyby said.

Monday night’s tornado in the northeastern corner of the state packed 150 mile-per-hour winds and was two to three miles wide, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado was only the fourth in Montana’s history to be rated EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, and was the deadliest tornado to hit the state since 1923.

A 10-year-old boy and a 46-year-old man died in the storm at a farm 13 miles west of Reserve. A third person, 71-year-old Barbara Smith, was in serious condition Wednesday at the Billings Clinic, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Smith was pulled from the rubble covering her house’s basement after neighbors and authorities found her next to her dead grandson, Robert “Robby” Richardson. The body of Smith’s nephew, Steven Smith, was found 200 feet away from the farmhouse, which was ripped from its foundation.

Relatives of the family were at the site gathering the family’s belongings, Nyby said.

“It was unreal that it hit that farmstead. It could have gone another half a mile to the east and had open prairie for another five, six, seven miles,” he said.

Nyby said besides the farmhouse, the biggest damage was to a bridge on Three Corners Road, a gravel road maintained by the county about 1½ miles away. County officials will decide whether to seek assistance after a state inspector determines the structural damage, he said.

Only two or three households were still without electricity, and utility crews hoped to have power completely restored by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services spokesman Tim Thennis said the state can assist the county with public infrastructure if county officials request it, but not private property.

The Red Cross was assisting the family, he said. A call to the Red Cross was not immediately returned Wednesday.

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