Discover the Montana Town Most Likely to Be Hit By a Tornado

Wibaux, Montana downtown
BigDave MT / CC BY-SA 3.0

Written by Jennifer Geer

Updated: June 20, 2023

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Unlike “tornado alley“, the region in the central United States known for deadly spring storms, Montana is at relatively low risk for tornadoes. And when they occur, they tend to be smaller and less destructive than the rotating monstrosities that can topple buildings and level neighborhoods in places like Oklahoma

However rare, residents in Montana need to be aware that tornadoes can happen anywhere at any time. And deadly tornadoes have occurred in Montana. This article shares what Montana town is most at risk for a tornado.

What Town is Most Likely to Experience a Tornado in Montana?

Wibaux, Montana downtown

Wibaux is the town most likely to experience a tornado in Montana.

According to the Tornado Index, Wibaux is the town most likely to experience a tornado in Montana. The Tornado Index measures an area’s risk for tornadoes compared to the rest of the nation. Wibaux’s score is 32.74, making it the highest ranking in the state.

It helps to compare the number to high-risk areas to understand the score. For example, Oklahoma has the highest tornado index in the country at 363.83. The city in Oklahoma with the highest score is Valley Brook, at 696.05. 

In comparison, the state of Montana has an overall score of 7.73. That makes it 49th in the nation for tornado risk.

About Wibaux, Montana

With a population of 513, Wibaux is a small town situated in eastern Montana. It’s located on I-94 and is considered a gateway to the state. Wibaux is the county seat of Wibaux County. The city and the county were named after famed cattle rancher Pierre Wibaux. Today, visitors to Wibaux can view the museum named after Pierre and see his statue at the western end of downtown.

When is Montana’s Tornado Season?

Nebraska tornado

Montana has a low risk of tornados, but they’re still possible in the state, and can occur at any time.

Tornado season in Montana occurs from late May through early August. In order to form, tornadoes need moist air near the ground combined with cooler air above. Although tornadoes can happen in any part of the state, they are less likely in the central and west, where the air is dryer. However, the eastern part of the state is more susceptible to tornadoes due to the moist air it receives from the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the Deadliest Tornado in Montana’s History?

On Father’s Day in 2010, an EF2 tornado struck a populated area in Billings, Montana. Billings is a few hours west of Wibaux. Known as the Father’s Day Tornado, the storm tore through the downtown area, causing two deaths. According to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour, which is on the high side of an EF2 tornado.

The largest tornado in Montana’s history occurred in 1952 when an EF3 tornado was tracked heading through Baker, Montana. Another tornado spawned that same day in Wibaux. The tornado in Wibaux was an EF3 and caused one death.

Can Tornadoes Occur in the Mountains of Montana?

American Elk in front of the Rocky Mountains

Tornadoes likely won’t happen in the Rocky Mountains but it’s always possible.

It’s rare, but it can happen. Tornadoes won’t often form in mountainous regions, such as the Rocky Mountains in Montana. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. An EF4 tornado was once recorded in the neighboring state of Wyoming. The Teton-Yellowstone tornado touched down in 1987, and it was the only EF4 tornado ever recorded at a high altitude in the US.

And in 2023, a very weak tornado, actually a cold air funnel called a landspout, touched down in Montana in the Mission Mountains. Unlike the violent tornadoes most people are familiar with, this landspout produced winds up to 90 miles per hour and registered as an EF0 tornado.

Wildlife Around Wibaux

wild turkey

Birds such as wild turkeys, mourning doves, and bald eagles live in Montana.

Montana is a sparsely populated state, giving wildlife the chance to thrive. The wildlife in Montana is very diverse, and Wibaux County is no exception. Birds are populous, including species such as hawksmourning doves, wild turkeysgreat horned owls, and bald eagles.

Beaver Creek flows through Wibaux and is home to many fish, such as catfishpanfish, and trout. Other animals you may encounter in the area include antelopemule deerwhitetail deer, and beavers.

There are also many large mammals that make their home in Montana. Some of these include:

Where is Wibaux County, Montana Located on a Map?

Wibaux is a small town tucked in Wibaux County, Montana, United States. It is the only incorporated town in Wibaux County. During the 2020 census, the population was a staggering 589 people.

Here is Wibaux County, Montana on a map:

How Do Tornadoes Impact Wildlife?

Lightning, Thunderstorm, Cloud - Sky, Cloudscape, USA

Lightning and other elements from a tornado can kill animals, but the aftermath of a tornado can also be devastating to wildlife.

When a tornado hits an area, it creates a lot of destruction. The initial funnel cloud can cause animal deaths, but the aftermath of the storm may be more dangerous to wildlife than the tornado itself. Tornadoes can destroy animal habitats, such as uprooting old-growth trees where animals made their home. The lightning from the storm can cause forest fires, and heavy rains can create flash flooding

However, even worse than that is the contamination of man-made chemicals in the environment after a tornado. Soil, air, and groundwater can be contaminated by hazardous waste from cleaning materials, asbestos from houses, workshop supplies like paint, and automotive products.

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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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