Do you have information on 1965 Tornadoes – Is something hidden in your scrapbooks or attic?
I wanted to make you aware of a research project on the ’65 tornadoes that is underway and ask for the Fridley Historical Society’s assistance. I recently volunteered to digitize and animate the images from the then U.S. Weather Bureau’s radar from the night of May 6. Given the limitations of radar technology back then, there was no method available to overlay a map on the radar display. The radar operated knew the approximate location of the storm cells, but that information is unfortunately lost to time. We are in the process of using all available resources to construct a reasonably accurate map that can be applied to the radar images.
Here is what we know at the present time:
- The radar antenna was located at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at the time (we have the geographic coordinates). We also have a rough idea of which range settings were in operation that night. As you can see in the animation, the radar operator changes the range periodically.
- The radar images are all time stamped in local time (Central Standard Time) on a 24 hour clock.
- Official storm reports compiled by the Weather Bureau and State Climatologist’s office include time of occurrences for many of the events.
- The State Climatologist and Weather Bureau created tornado path maps with timelines in the weeks following the event, but the maps and timelines were mysteriously modified in 1973 with no explanation given for the changes.
- WCCO Radio recorded most of its hours-long coverage of the storms, and I recently created a timeline (accurate to approximately plus/minus one minute) and transcribed all of the listener and official reports from the tapes. This enables us to compare the radar images with the WCCO coverage.
- Our initial analysis of the radar images in conjunction with the radio reports and official documentation calls into question the timing and tracks of some of the tornadoes as depicted in the revised 1973 maps.
Here’s how the FHS can help. We are working with University of Minnesota Computer Science and Engineering Professor Shashi Shekhar (an expert in Geographic Information Science or GIS) to gather information from people who experienced the tornadoes that will help us to identify the locations of the storm cells on the radar. He and his colleagues have created a webpage where the public can enter personal accounts of their experiences and indicate their location and an approximate time frame.
Here is a link to the website:
Here is Twitter/Facebook-friendly URL for the site:
If FHS would be willing to encourage participation in this project by promoting it via social media, this would be greatly appreciated, and we will share the results of this research with your organization when the project is completed.
Here are some additional resources which you may find interesting (please feel free to share these links on your website/social media):
- Animated radar imaged from May 6, 1965: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83aFBj3Qdvs
- A narrative of the event written by National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Todd Krause: http://www.weather.gov/media/mpx/1965May6-50thAnniversary.pdf
- WCCO Radio coverage from that evening: http://www.radiotapes.com/specialpostings.html#Tornadoes
Please let me know if you can help us with this project. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have or provide additional information.
Jim du Bois
Radar Digitized from 1965 Tornadoes