Listen back to historic coverage of the May 6, 1965 tornado disaster in the Twin Cities metro area

You can listen back to radio coverage of the tornadoes from WCCO.
Author:
Publish date:

Sunday marks the 53-year anniversary of the tornado outbreak that killed 13, injured 683 and leveled 600 homes in the Twin Cities metro area on May 6, 1965. 

According to official records from the National Weather Service, there were six tornadoes and all of them were strong. Four were rated F4 on the Fujita Scale, producing winds of 207-260 mph, one was an F3 (158-206 mph) and another an F2 (113-157 mph). 

The storms grew monstrous late in the day, with the first reports of golfball to baseball-sized hail coming in around 6 p.m. and lasting until nearly midnight.

All the while, tornadoes formed and reformed, two of them hitting the Lake Minnetonka area and two more spinning through Fridley, although there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that Fridley was hit by a third, the DNR says

The death toll could've been higher if not for continuous coverage by WCCO radio announcers Dick Chapman and Charlie Boone, whose voices can still be heard during their live coverage thanks to archived audio from radiotapes.com

"We saw it and took pictures of the houses and the roofs flying," a caller says describing a tornado near Excelsior. 

Chapman and Boone took calls from people who described their location and what they were seeing. 

One of Chapman's announcements was ominous. 

"Just in from the Twin Cities Weather Bureau Radio showing an intense hook echo, a definite tornado between Cologne and Carver, moving toward Victoria. All residents in that area are warned now to take cover." 

Callers described seeing debris flying, green clouds and heavy damage all over the metro. 

"I'm shaking like a leaf right now," a young caller said. "This is the second tornado we've seen. It's moving past Minneapolis my dad says." 

Related: 

Sign up for our daily newsletters

WCCO also had mobile units, which were reporters driving through the metro and calling in on secured lines.

"Whatever force it was that tore these trees down is unbelievable," said Chuck Lillegren, one of the mobile reporters. 

After the storms had blown through they continued taking calls from people describing the damage. 

"I could see many homes that are completely gone. Just their foundations are standing there," a caller in Fridley said. "Where the house used to be is where the car is now. It's just unbelievable." 

A reporter at one point described the scene at Mercy Hospital in Anoka. 

"We find that so far, as they can determine, they have had 81 patients admitted," the reporter says. "They are still coming in, these are coming in from Spring Lake Park, Fridley and New Brighton. It is a virtual madhouse at the hospital with people milling all over."  

Between 8:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. more than 200 patients were admitted at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, where "patients were simply being numbered," Chapman said.

Chapman and Boone signed off at 12:10 a.m. the next day. 

With more than $50 million in damages, the May 6, 1965 outbreak is the most expensive tornado disaster in Minnesota history. 

Next Up

police lights

AMBER Alert: Missing 2-year-old found safe

The alert was issued Sunday evening.

Irv Cross

NFL Pro-Bowler, Twin Cities broadcaster Irv Cross dies at 81

Cross was a Pro Bowl cornerback, but his biggest impact was made after his career.

snow

Here's how much snow fell in Minnesota on Sunday

Some localized areas saw more than expected.

Lindsay Guentzel

For The Week: What's harder than making a meal plan? Sticking to it!

Lindsay Guentzel says you shouldn't give up on your meal planning routines.

snow, plow

Winter storm warnings issued as snow system shifts in Minnesota

The worst of the snow will now hit further north, affecting areas including St. Cloud and the I-94 corridor.

Matt Dumba

Matt Dumba beats the clock to give Wild sixth straight win

Dumba scored as overtime came to a close for another Wild victory.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Bradley Beal terrorizes Timberwolves in loss to Wizards

Beal and the Wizards handed the Wolves their seventh straight defeat.

Marcus Carr / Gopher basketball

Gophers tourney hopes take another blow with loss to Nebraska

Marcus Carr scored a career-high 41 points, but Minnesota is still winless on the road.

Related

7 years since a large tornado ripped up north Minneapolis

The tornado touched down in St. Louis Park and moved north-northeast.

It's been 10 years since the devastating Hugo tornado

A toddler was killed and nine others were injured.

Way Over Our Heads podcast: 1965 Twin Cities tornado outbreak

The weather disaster caused 13 deaths and nearly 700 injuries.

Thursday storms could bring tornadoes to Minnesota

Powerful twisters aren't expected, but small tornadoes can produce quite a bit of damage.

Tornado caught on camera in northern Minnesota

The tornado touched down about 45 miles north of Bemidji.

Chandler-Lake Wilson tornado 1992

'High risk' severe storm days happen in Minnesota, too

They're not common, but they're not reserved solely for Tornado Alley.