June 20th, 1957. It would be determined later that there were five tornadoes in the Fargo area that day. The first, a rope-like funnel near the rural community of Wheatland, did little damage. The second was a powerful funnel near Casselton, North Dakota, and it would have been devastating if not for the rural location. The fourth and fifth funnel clouds were on the Minnesota side of the Red River, and both caused damage to nearby structures. None of the tornadoes were as powerful, however, as the third funnel in the series–the Fargo Tornado. It was a tragic coincidence that the most powerful storm of the five struck the most densely populated city in the region that day.
Fargo Forum Photographer Chet Gebert captured the photo above on the day of the storm. It is the most recognized image of the 1957 Fargo Tornado.
The panorama above was assembled from photos found in an estate sale in Washington State. The photographer and exact location are unknown. You can barely make out the shape of a man standing beside his car. Below: A zoom view.
There’s a lot more about the 1957 Fargo Tornado (including more photos) in the book, Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found.