Tracy, MN F5 Tornado – June 13, 1968

SPC Stats:

Path length: 9.1 miles

Width:  150 yards

Fatalities:  9

Injuries:  150

Rating:  F5

Counties:  Murray, Lyon, Redwood

“It looked like we were driving into a dump site, or a burned out slum, or what I would imagine a bombed out city would have looked like after World War II." - These are the words of Steve Ulmen.  He was 22 and a senior member of the Mankato Civil Air Patrol squadron when an F5 hit Tracy, MN on June 13, 1968.  He was dispatched to Tracy on a search and rescue mission.  (Minn Post).

Eleven tornadoes were confirmed on June 13, 1968.  5 were in the state of Minnesota.  All rated F0...but one.  This devastating tornado struck just after 7pm.  It traveled close to 13 miles (Per Storm Data Publication).  There were 9 fatalities.  The exact number of injuries is not clear.  There were at least 125.  110+ homes had major damage.  13 farms and 10 businesses were destroyed.  Per the Minneapolis Star (June 14, 1968), the force of this tornado lifted a boxcar from the tracks and moved it 1 1/2 blocks into a residential section.  

Storm Data Entry

Severe tornado formed and touched at 6:50pm, 1/2 mile NE Lake Sarah.  Moved northeastward 13 miles at 35 mph lifting at 713pm.  Striking Tracy at 7:02pm, killing 9 person, injuring 125, destroying 111 houses, major damage to 81 and minor damage to 117.  13 farms and 10 businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged.  Pictures were taken, also movies.  Tornado was observed greater than 20 miles in all directions.

Tornado Path

Here are the official coordinates for the path from SPC:

Start lat/lon:  44.17 / -95.75

End lat/lon:  44.30 / -95.60

Here is that path mapped out.

The path is too far west.  The tornado went through downtown Tracy.  Also it ended in Redwood County, that is not indicated here.

Tracy, MN F5 Tornado - June 13, 1968 - SPC

Here are the official coordinates for the path from NCDC - this is broken down in segments by county:

Murray County:  

Start:  44.17 / -95.75   -  End: 44.20 / -95.70

Lyon County:

Start:  44.20 / -95.70   -   End:   44.27 / -95.58

Redwood County:

Start:  44.27 / -95.58   -   End:  44.30 / -95.60

This plot looks good actually until the final segment.  There are NO indications that this tornado made a sudden jog to the northwest.  

Based on the narratives of the path in the Storm Data Narrative and by Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, we adjusted the track map to include the starting lat/lon from SPC and NCDC and ending it in Redwood County (44.27 / -95.58).  Even this plot seems too far west because Tracy should be in the crosshairs of the tornado.  

Morning after coverage on WCCO of the deadly tornado in Tracy, MN with Franklyn Hobbs, Roger Erickson, news director Jim Bormann (reporting from Tracy), Jergen Nash and Howard Viken via radiotapes.com.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the June 1968 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 9.1 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and Storm Data have a length at 13 miles.

Max Width:

  • Grazulis has a width of 600 yards.
  • Remaining sources list the width at 150 yards.

Injuries:

  • SPC/NCDC list 150 injuries.
  • Storm Data/Grazulis have 125 injuries.

Counties:

  • Storm Data only lists Lyon County.
  • Remaining sources have the tornado path going trough Murray, Lyon and Redwood.  
  • When NCDC breaks down the path length in each county, it lists 2.3 miles in Murray County, 6.8 miles in Lyon County and 0 miles in Redwood County for a total of 9.1 miles.  If you look at the map section above, NCDC coordinates do bring the path into Redwood County for several miles not zero.

Sources:

The Storm Prediction Center

NCDC Storm Events Database

June 1968 Storm Data Publication

WCCO News Special on the deadly tornado that hit the town of Tracy Minnesota on June 13, 1968.

Memories of the June 13, 1968, Tracy tornado: 'Pain, anguish and blood…' - minnpost.com

newspapers.com

Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1100.