McKenzie County To Consider Disaster Declaration In Wake Of Tornado

Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, left, talks to Watford City, N.D., RV park resident Anthony Beyda about the injuries he suffered during the tornado during a tour of the damaged area Friday, May 30, 2014. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – McKenzie County Commissioners are expected to consider a county disaster declaration Tuesday, allowing county funds to be used to clean up damage from last week’s tornado, Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said.

The tornado, which severely damaged or destroyed 15 RVs south of Watford City, will not qualify for a state or federal disaster declaration, said Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency typically becomes available if there is $1 million in damage to public infrastructure, Wilz said. In the case of the May 26 tornado, the RV park was privately owned.

“This should be mostly insurable damage,” said Wilz, who toured the site Friday with Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

However, county officials say two of the 15 households had insurance on their campers. Most residents were from out of state, working in oilfield or service industry jobs.

Assistance to those affected by the storm will come primarily from Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, such as the American Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services and various church organizations, Wilz said.

To help people with needs that those groups can’t meet, a McKenzie County Disaster Relief Fund has been established at

“We want to be able to get these people’s lives back,” said Karolin Rockvoy, McKenzie County emergency manager.

While touring the damage, Wrigley said he’d like to see state and local officials have a conversation about whether shelters should be required for RV parks and similar housing camps.

It may be possible for local counties to access federal dollars through a grant program for emergency shelters, Wrigley said.

During the tour, Wrigley met with Anthony Beyda, a welder from Wyoming who survived the tornado in his RV but needed 16 stitches in his head. He was working with insurance adjustors Friday on vehicles totaled by the storm and eager to get back to work.

Like many of the residents, Beyda had a free hotel room for about a week, but was still making plans beyond that.

“At this point, I’m reeling,” the 56-year-old said. “I’m not really sure what I’m going to do.”

How to help:

The McKenzie County Tornado Relief Fund has been set up at First International Bank and Trust, P.O. Box 607, Watford City, ND 58854. Online donations will be accepted through the North Dakota Community Foundation, or