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2021 St. Cloud-Sauk Rapids-Waite Park Tornado
EF5 tornado
The EF5 near the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, MN

The EF5 near the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, MN
Date June 26, 2021
Times 7:08 PM CDT - 8:04 PM CDT
Touchdown location Sauk Rapids, Minnesota
Highest winds

293 mph (471.5 km/h)

Injuries 7,438
Fatalities 858
Damage $2.04 billion (2021 USD)
Areas affected St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids, Waite Park, MN
Part of the
Tornadoes of 2021 (Daily)

The 2021 St. Cloud-Sauk Rapids-Waite Park Tornado was a devastating EF5 tornado that struck the St. Cloud, Minnesota area on the night of June 26, 2021, which left over 800 people dead and injured nearly 75,000 more, making it the deadliest tornado in US history since the 1925 Tri-State Tornado.

Meteorological Sypnosis

The storm system that carried this tornado was created near Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 23, 2021, where 5 tornadoes were confirmed that day, with no casualties and little damage. 4 of the tornadoes were ranked EF0, while one of the tornadoes was EF1 due to minor damage to trees. On June 24, 2021, the storm made its way to Pierre, SD, where it proceeded to release 1 tornado, an EF1, with no causalities. The storm proceeded to start moving northeast, in which it reached Aberdeen, SD, on June 25, 2021, where it did not create any tornadoes. The system then proceeded to begin heading east, which was going in a direct path towards the St. Cloud area.

On June 26, 2021, the Storm Prediction Center issued a high risk area around the St. Cloud area, but that morning, the skies were mostly clear with some clouds coming from the west. However, by around 1:45 PM CDT, the skies began getting darker. At around 2:38 PM, The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Watch for Stearns County, as well as 14 other counties, which would end at 11:00 PM. At 4:37 PM, The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for Stearns and 7 other counties, lasting until 12:30 AM on June 27. At 6:21 PM, The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Stearns, Benton, and Wright Counties in Minnesota until 7:00 PM, with Sherburne County entering in the warning at 6:41 PM, lasting until 7:30 PM.

The Storm Prediction Center's Day 1 Prediction of June 26, 2021. Notice the high risk area is in the St. Cloud area

A supercell formed not far outside of Sartell, Minnesota at around 6:49 PM, and at 6:57 PM, only 11 minutes before the tornado would strike, The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Stearns County, until 7:15 PM.

Storm History

At 7:08 PM CDT, the tornado struck the ground northwest of Sauk Rapids, where it proceeded to move southeast and headed into downtown Sauk Rapids. At around 7:16 PM, the tornado had reached 268 mph (431.3 km/h), and began to go southwest towards St. Cloud across the Mississippi River. By 7:21 PM, it had flattened about 48% of Sauk Rapids, killing 34, and injuring 322 more. It proceeded to go north of St. Cloud State University, and destroyed tons of buildings and properties. At 7:36 PM, the tornado had reached 282 mph, and was heading west towards the Crossroads Centre in Waite Park, MN, where people were still there. They had been notified beforehand that a Tornado Warning was in effect, and told everyone to stay away from windows and get in the nearest store and get in the position. At 7:49 PM, the tornado grew to about 0.73 miles (1.17 km) wide, was at 293 mph, its maximum speed, where it would be in a direct collision with the mall. At 7:51 PM, the tornado struck the mall, obliterating every store instantly, sucked up several walls and people, and caused 814 deaths, and injured thousands more. The tornado would then destroy more of Waite Park before turning north and proceeding on a path to Sartell. It began to weaken up after the hit in Waite Park, and by 7:58 PM, was already at 243 mph (391 km/h), and was travelling across fields. Finally, at 8:04 PM, the tornado returned, after 56 minutes on the ground, and 10.93 mi. (17.61 km.)

Impact and Aftermath

The tornado caused several changes in the lives of many people. 858 people were killed in the tornado, over 7,000 were injured, and thousands more were homeless.

The remains of the Crossroads Centre.

The youngest death was a 19 year old, and the oldest death was a 77 year old. It took months and months to repair St. Cloud, or at least what was left of it. By Summer 2024, the Crossroads Memorial Centre was finished in Waite Park, as a tribute to those who died in the tornado. Sauk Rapids was nearly wiped off the map, and ended up rebuilding, and building the Tornado Park, a park dedicated to those who lost their lives. The hospital in St. Cloud was crowded with deaths and injuries, many had to be airlifted to other hospitals. The tornado did suck up some granite from the granite mines not that far from when it turned, and pebbles were thrown everywhere. A man from Alexandria reported seeing lots of granite cover normally clean road. By 2025, 98% of the area was recovered, but some buildings were left destroyed as historic sites.

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