Plentywood gets smacked with 2 storms in 90 minutes; Majority of - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Plentywood gets smacked with 2 storms in 90 minutes; Majority of town sees damage

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PLENTYWOOD - A massive storm in northeastern Montana has caused serious damage to the town of Plentywood.  Taylor Ordahl, a local photographer, told us the storm hit hard for about 15 minutes before rearing its ugly head again another 45 minutes later.

"We could see it building as we were driving into town. It started pouring as we pulled into our driveway.  We watched everything happen from our bay window in our kitchen," said Ordahl.

After the first storm hit, Ordahl went out to look around and assess the damage. She said the neighbor's 50 year-old aspen tree had fallen over, and that was just the beginning. 

Up at the airport, hangars were ripped apart and what appears to be a cellphone tower was tangled like a string of holiday lights. 

Ordahl said, "Hangars are all falling down.  Planes are upside down and on the other side of the taxiway, you can barely tell they are planes anymore." 

As she was taking photos up at the airport, she noticed the storm was coming back their way. Ordahl and her family tried to make it to a safe area but had to take shelter under a gas station roof as ping-pong-ball-sized hail came pouring down. 

"Once that stopped, we drove back towards Williston and saw the entrance of the Blue Moon Restaurant, Bar & Casino was taken off," said Ordahl.

Alexa and Mark Olson, owners of Blue Moon, said one of their employees called them in a panic, "She said that the front entry of the bar got ripped off and windows shattered."

The bartender eventually told everyone in the building to go to the basement to ride it out. When the storm finally passed they came upstairs safe and sound but found the bar, kitchen, and casino in shambles. But that wasn't even the worst of it. While the first storm was passing through someone robbed, looted and even vandalized the casino.

Olson said, "Somebody took a little safe I had in the back in our office with a smaller amount of money. Then they wrote some graffiti on our chalkboard in Spanish."

Sheridan County Sheriff Heidi Williamson said this was the only crime they're aware of during the storm and an investigation is underway. 

As for the cleanup, it began almost immediately. For some, there is no cleaning up what mother nature left behind. It will have to be a fresh start.

"Everyone's life is turned upside down right now," Olson said. "There's a gal across the way with 2 little girls, and they hid underneath a pickup truck and her whole trailer house is gone. All their horses got out. There's trees down into houses and lot of broken windows on cars."

Despite all that damage, Sheriff Williamson told us not one person was injured in all of the storms. 

However, they're not out of the woods yet. Power has been out for nearly 24 hours and temperatures reached the mid-80s on Tuesday. Montana Dakota Utilities was able to restore some of the power early Tuesday evening however it could be days before the entire town is back on the grid. 

By the end of the day National Weather Service in Glasgow was able to determine a tornado did touch down south of town but it was a microburst that caused the most damage. Winds gusted at 110-120 mph at the airport and throughout town.