RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Three National Guard members were checked for cuts, bumps and bruises after strong winds knocked down 51 military tents set up at Camp Rapid Thursday.
About 8:15 a.m., some of the 2,500 Guardsmen taking part in two weeks of exercises in the Black Hills were milling around and waiting for company formations when the winds started knocking down tents one by one.
The National Weather Service said winds reached 90 mph in west Rapid City. It wasn’t clear where the injured Guardsmen were from.
Among the units at the camp was the 134th Signal Battalion of the Minnesota National Guard, which had assigned 20 people to each of its six tents, said Lt. Tim Tarnowski.
“People were scrambling and grabbing ropes,” Tarnowski said.
Some people were still in sleeping bags when their tents started falling in around them, said Lt. Col. Maureen Gagliardi, 134th Battalion commander.
“I was waiting for formation, and we went into the tent to keep dry because it was raining out,” said Specialist Emmett Cramblit of the 134th.
“When the winds came up, we were all leaning on poles,” trying to keep them upright, said Cramblit, who wore a bandage over his forehead.
When the tents blew over, “I didn’t even know I got hit,” Cramblit said. “I was laying on the ground with the tent on top of me.”
Specialist Sheri Finley was holding onto a rope, trying to keep the tent from blowing down, when one gust sent everything flying.
“I went flying with it,” she said.
Finley landed on her knee, bruising it.
Within minutes, other Guardsmen swarmed around the tents to help out, said First Sgt. Loren Hanson of the 134th. Some rushed into the tents to hold them up so that others could get out or move equipment outside.
“It was irritating, and scary,” Hanson said.
The 134th has completed its exercises and is preparing to go home this weekend.
The sight of all that chaos created a feeling of empathy for what residents of Spencer must have experienced when a tornado struck their town, said Ellen Killey, wife of Maj. Gen. Philip Killey, South Dakota adjutant general. Ellen Killey was reading the Bible inside a home located at Camp Rapid when a tree fell near the front stoop.
“We got a little bit of damage, and I was worried about a vehicle,” she said.