WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — A tornado touched down in a worker camp in the North Dakota oil patch on Monday, severely damaging about 15 trailers, the National Weather Service said.
It wasn't immediately clear if anyone was injured when the twister struck the camp about 5 miles south of Watford City, which is in the west of the state about 30 miles southeast of the oil boom hub city of Williston. People who answered the phone at the McKenzie County Sheriff's Office and McKenzie County Hospital in Watford City declined to discuss the matter, saying they didn't know the full extent of the damage or injuries, if there were any.
Although the tornado warning for the area was later lifted, McKenzie County emergency management officials were asking people to stay off the roads because emergency vehicles were having a difficult time reaching the scene.
William Bunkel, who works for a trucking company, told The Associated Press late Monday that he was in Watford City with some co-workers when the tornado warning came. They had just moved their vehicles inside because of large hail when they spotted the funnel cloud.
"We saw it form, come out of the sky, hit the ground and go back up into the clouds," he said.
Bunkel, 38, took photos of the twister and estimated that it remained on the ground for nearly a minute. He said he couldn't see any debris.
"It was a little bit too far away. We just saw the clouds and the rotation," he said.
The oil boom has fueled a population boom for the area, bringing in tens of thousands of people looking for work. Many live in hastily-assembled trailer parks or man camps, which contain pre-fabricated structures that can resemble military barracks. Some companies rent blocks of hotel rooms for employees to live in, and some workers sleep in their cars or even tents.
Housing developments are constantly popping up in big areas of town that didn't exist on maps a couple of years ago. But they are still not enough to keep pace with demand and oil money has pushed rents to among the highest in the nation: A simple one bedroom apartment in Williston can easily cost $2,000 per month in rent. Even a spot to park a trailer can cost over $800 per month.