1886 Sauk Rapids tornado

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1886 Sauk Rapids Tornado
F4 tornado
The Sauk Rapids courthouse in ruins
Formed April 14, 1886 4:00 p.m. CST
Max rating1 F4 tornado
Damage $400,000
Total fatalities 72 fatalities, 200+ injuries
Areas affected Central Minnesota, United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The 1886 Sauk Rapids Tornado was a violent tornado that tore through the cities of Sauk Rapids, St. Cloud, and Rice, Minnesota, on April 14, 1886. It destroyed much of the town of Sauk Rapids and killed 72 people along its path. It is the deadliest tornado on record in Minnesota. Other tornadoes occurred in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas on the same day, suggesting the possibility of a large outbreak.


Destruction in Sauk Rapids after the tornado

At 4:00 p.m., a tornado of approximately F4 intensity cut through the heart of Sauk Rapids. It was one of at least four tornadoes that affected the region between 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. that day. It had a maximum width of 1/2 mile (0.8 km) and covered an area of 14 miles (22 km).[1] As the storm moved across the Mississippi River, it temporarily sucked the river dry.[1] Some of the structures the tornado destroyed included an iron truss bridge spanning the Mississippi River, the post office, the courthouse, a flour mill, a school, and two churches.[1] Fifteen rail cars were demolished, and iron rails from the train track were pulled up and mangled.[2] After it passed through Sauk Rapids it moved on to Rice, where it killed 11 people in a wedding party when the home they were occupying was destroyed. In all, 72 people were killed by the twister, including 38 in Sauk Rapids and 20 in St. Cloud. Over 200 more were injured.

Relief efforts[edit]

St. Benedict's Hospital in St. Cloud, which was spared by the tornado, became the center of relief efforts following the destruction. The Benedictine nuns who operated the hospital worked 48 hours straight until aid arrived from the nearby towns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Over 50 patients were taken to St. Mary's school and convent in St. Joseph, where the teaching sisters served as nurses.[3]


Before the tornado struck, Sauk Rapids was considered one of the most important towns in Minnesota and a center of business for central Minnesota.[4][5] It was a blossoming community located on the Mississippi River. However, the tornado changed the economic structure of the entire area, destroying at least 109 commercial and public buildings in Sauk Rapids alone, including every business on Main Street, and causing over $400,000 (1886 dollars) in damages.[5][6] After the tornado, St. Cloud became the dominant business center in the region.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Seeley, Mark W. (2006). Minnesota Weather Almanac. Minnesota Historical Society press. ISBN 0-87351-554-4.
  2. ^ "Monthly Weather Review" (PDF). National Weather Service. April 1886. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  3. ^ Dominik, John J. (1986). That You May Find Healing. St. Cloud, Minn: St. Cloud Hospital. p. 8.
  4. ^ "Sauk Rapids History". City of Sauk Rapids. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  5. ^ a b "Communities In Crisis". Stearns County History Museum. Archived from the original on 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  6. ^ "April in the Upper Midwest". Intellicast. Archived from the original on 2006-08-15. Retrieved 2007-05-15.

External links[edit]