Between Opheim and Scobey you will find the community of Glentana, where it is largely peaceful, until last week when a tornado touched down causing extensive damage to many properties in the area and giving many locals a scare they won’t soon forget.
Tornadoes aren’t common in Big Sky Country, but on July 18, 2022, an EF-2 tornado hit Valley County. Tornadoes are rated EF0 to EF5, with EF5 being the strongest. So two isn’t the worst – but it still caused a lot of damage.
“It was the only one we’ve had so far this year,” said meteorologist Brad Mickelson. “But in this area that we monitor, there’s been an average of about one a year. There are four things you need for a tornado. You need moisture, you need lift, and you need instability in the atmosphere. And you also need something called wind shear. Few tornadoes have done too much, but this one hit the city directly. We didn’t see that. “
Glentana is not far from the Canadian border, seven people live there.
Two of those seven are Gene and Patty St. John. They were away from home on July 18 when it hit, and what they came back to was very different from what they left. They lost many grain silos, a Quonset hut, and a lot of hard work.
“The quonset was quite curved and just fell over the gear inside,” Gene said. “The other went to the trash cans next door.”
Their son, Scott, who was unavailable to talk about this story, was at home in their store when he heard the walls shaking. He was able to climb out from under a truck after he was picked up and hid under a combine harvester as the tornado ripped through their farm and their lives.
“We kind of missed that big cleanup, but our son did a great job,” Patty said. “It was a shock to hear what happened.” No lives were lost, but a lot of farm equipment was.
When Jean and Patty returned home, they were surrounded by debris, with parts of their lives now destroyed.
“Now, what do we do for storage? As you can see, we don’t have a warehouse, so maybe set something up so we can bring some gear inside for the winter. You know, if you’re in Billings, there’s a lot of construction crews or Great Falls in Missoula, but not here.
Fortunately, they are also surrounded by a lot more than the other five residents of Glentana, trucks, trailers, equipment, etc.
There is a lot of support to give hope to St John’s. “I’ll tell you what it’s a pretty good community you’re talking about, it’s a friend’s truck we used, didn’t even know he had it but it helped. And this trailer is a very good friend of the north. And we filled it with a lot of stuff that was in the store.
The Saint Johns estimated over $1,000,000 in damage between destroyed buildings, trash cans and equipment. But they know they will rebuild thanks to their courage and their community that supports Glentana. Even with all this damage, life goes on with a smile on St John’s faces. “The brown shed next to our house has been there forever and I wouldn’t mind if it flew away,” Gene joked. “Of course it hasn’t budged an inch, but we’re still here and we won’t rebuild overnight, but we will rebuild.”
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