Residents in storm-damaged Castlewood still recovering


CASTLEWOOD (AP) – Residents of a small community in northeastern South Dakota are still recovering from a wave of destructive storms a month ago.

Piles of debris and broken tree limbs sit on the edge of town in Castlewood, a community of about 600 near Watertown. Some homes and buildings show fresh wood from repairs, while in other places a hole in the ground is the only sign of a former structure.

Fallen trees with upturned roots are everywhere, and debris still litters some yards, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

According to the National Weather Service, 16 tornadoes hit eastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota on May 12. Castlewood was hit by an EF2 tornado that packed winds of 120 mph and stayed on the ground for about 2 miles.

Mayor Brian Ries says they are still assessing the extent of the damage in town.

“We’ve come a long ways,” Ries said. “We’ve got a lot of cleanup to do yet, a lot of rebuilding process to go through. I think most people’s mentality right now is one day at a time type of thing.”

In total, around 20 structures in Castlewood are destroyed while another 80 are damaged. No one died in Castlewood or suffered major injuries in the tornado.

The school district's building, which houses preschool to senior high students, was one of the hardest hit locations in town. Superintendent Peter Books says almost half the school, specifically the elementary wing, is structurally unsound.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's preliminary estimates report a total of $6.7 million in public infrastructure damages from the storm across 20 counties and two reservations. It’s not clear how much assistance the federal agency will provide.

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