Twist of Fate: Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the St. Peter Tornado


Thursday, March 29, 2018

5:15 p.m.

St. Peter High School Auditorium

A time for reflection as we commemorate the 1998 tornado. The program will honor the losses, while also celebrating the resiliency of the community over the last 20 years turning this tragedy to opportunity and expressing gratitude for the heroic efforts of the community to build a stronger St. Peter.

Featuring retired WCCO news anchor, Don Shelby as emcee.



Sponsored by: City of St. Peter, St. Peter Chamber of Commerce, St. Peter School District, Nicollet County Historical Society, Nicollet County, and Gustavus Adolphus College

Return to this page at 5:10 p.m. Thursday, March 29 and click on the LIVE LINK to watch the commemoration program live streaming as it's happening.

Check back to this page for updates and links to other organizations offering tornado photos and stories.


Tornado Statistics Compiled From Internet Sources
  • 16 tornadoes across the region—14 in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin. Thirteen of the tornadoes in Minnesota were spawned by a single supercell thunderstorm. This supercell remained intact for approximately 150 miles.
  • Over $235 million in damage (1998 US$) was recorded from the tornadoes, two people were killed, and 21 others were injured. Most of the damage was caused by three tornadoes—one rated F4 that hit the town of Comfrey, Minnesota, an F3 that hit St. Peter, Minnesota, and an F2 that hit Le Center, Minnesota.
  • Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter was especially hard-hit, with almost every building damaged or destroyed, 2,000 trees lost, and nearly 80% of the windows on the campus shattered.
  • Nicollet County, our County was later declared a federal disaster areas.
  • The supercell broke many early-season tornado records for the state of Minnesota. The 14 total tornadoes in the state were the most to ever touch down on a single day in March. The F4 tornado was the strongest ever recorded in the state in March, and its 67-mile (108 km) path the longest tornado path ever recorded in Minnesota.
  • St. Peter's Catholic Church and St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church were destroyed, as was the Arts and Heritage Center and the Saint Peter Community Center. The Hospital was severely damaged and the library was destroyed, resulting in a loss of 25% of its books.
  • Officials estimated 200 homes in St. Peter were destroyed, 400 sustained structural damage and 1,200 more received damage with over 17,000 trees were lost.
  • All together this tornado was on the ground for 18 miles (29 km) and inflicted $120 million in damage.
  • Before this event there had been only six tornadoes ever recorded in the state during March, and since this event there has been only six.  This outbreak also marks the first time in Minnesota history that two tornadoes were recorded on the same day in March, as well as the first time since 1921 that there have been multiple tornado fatalities on the same March day.
  • With a path of 67 miles is the longest continuous-track tornado in Minnesota history, meaning that it was the longest to have been observed to always be in contact with the ground. The damage from the F4 tornado that struck Comfrey is the strongest ever measured in Minnesota during the month of March.
  • On April 1, 1998, seven counties in Minnesota were declared federal disaster areas: Brown, Le Sueur, Nicollet, Rice, Cottonwood, Blue Earth and Nobles.  The State of Minnesota contributed $27.6 million to the cleanup and rebuilding effort, with $1.35 million designated specifically for the preservation of the historical buildings in St. Peter.  Most of St. Peter's buildings that were on the National Historic Register were damaged, and two schools Saint Peter Central School (built in 1871) and John Ireland School had to be demolished. Three years after the tornado, the City of St. Peter reported that its population had grown by 2%; an unusual feat for a town that had so recently endured a natural disaster.
  • Damage to the Gustavus campus was estimated at nearly $60 million. Despite 33 of the 78 of the classrooms not being ready for use, the college re-opened three weeks after the tornado.


  • There was no electrical power to some areas of the community for almost two weeks.


  • House by house searches were completed within three hours of the tornado.


  • Estimates of 10,000 volunteers came to help in the two weeks after the tornado.


  • Two people lost their lives as a result of the tornado and its aftermath.


  • Sirens were sounded about ten minutes prior to the strike in Saint Peter.