Driver whose RV was struck by Sunday tornado dies

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand – A recreation vehicle driver traveling on State Highway 45 north of Miller died after the vehicle was struck by a tornado Sunday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado formed north of Miller about 6:13 p.m., according to the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen. Steve Fleegel, science and operations officer, said that was about 15 miles north of Miller and 7 miles southeast of Polo.

The RV was about 13 miles north of Miller and was southbound on State Highway 45, according to a report from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. It was hauling a small sedan on a trailer. The 73-year-old man who was driving was not identified.

The tornado touched down, crossing the road east to west, according to the report. It caused the trailer to detach from the RV. The trailer and sedan ended up in the west ditch. The RV came to rest on its roof 150 to 200 yards west of the road in a nearby field. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

A National Weather Service team is assessing the damage and the path of the tornado today. That report is expected by the end of the day.

While there was a severe thunderstorm warning at the time, Fleegel said there was not a tornado warning for the Miller area. Such warnings are issued with a combination of reports from spotters and radar information. Fleegel said there will be an evaluation of procedures in connection to what happened Sunday evening to see if improvements to the process are needed. At the time of the storm, however, the National Weather Service had conflicting information about the timing of the storm and radar details.

Fleegel said he and others at the National Weather Service dedicate their lives to protecting life when there’s severe weather, and everyone at the office is saddened to hear about a fatality.

Storms were continuously building and moving as part of a  Sunday evening system, he said.

“With the way storms were developing, it can go from a severe thunder storm to a tornado pretty quickly,” he said, encouraging people to heed severe weather warnings and take shelter.

The storm dropped about a half-inch of rain in Aberdeen.

In Hand County, there was a report of 1.45 inches of rain near Danforth and another report of 1.33 inches.

There were also reports of hail, including of 2 inches in diameter near Miller and golf ball-sized near Faulk County, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado near Miller was the only one confirmed by the National Weather Service in Aberdeen. A second tornado in Beadle County, about 2 miles east of Virgil, was confirmed by the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

That tornado was at 7:17 p.m. National Weather Service crews will be out evaluating damage and the path of the tornado today.