Billings Gazette Reports Tornado

Police said a tornado ripped off most of the roof of a sports arena in Blillings, Mont. The tornado was first reported at about 4:45 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time, said Lt. Mark Cady, of the Billings Police Department. The tornado approached the city from the southeast, doing the most damage in two neighborhoods called The Heights and the Lower Heights, before heading northwest, he said.

The tornado also tore off more than half the roof of the Rimrock Auto Arena at Metra Park, leaving pieces strewn over a ¾-mile area, Lt. Cady said. The arena, which seats 10,000 people, hosts indoor football games, rodeos and concerts. The tornado also damaged a casino, a bar and a laundry operation in the city’s downtown area and leveled a glass shop and broke some gas mains.

At a McDonald’s restaurant, about 20 people took cover in the walk-in freezer when they saw the tornado coming, Lt. Cady said. The tornado blew out all the glass from the building.

The tornado was also accompanied by floods that left cars stranded on roads under deep water. Runoff from the storm also overwhelmed the city’s sewer system.

The storm left as quickly as it appeared, and a half-hour later, the sun was shining, officials said. Some area residents who wanted to see the damage themselves created additional work for emergency workers as traffic became congested along Main Street, officials said.

Officials continued a flash flood warning for central Yellowstone County until 9:45 p.m.

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