The Night Of Tornadoes – May 6, 1965

Minnesota Tornados

Minnetonka Boat Works was the local Chris-Craft Dealer in Wayzata – on Lake Minnetonka. Their storage facility was in nearby Deephaven where the tornadoes passed through. The devastation from the tornado that hit Lake Minnetonka and Deephaven was substantial, flipping the boats like small toys into a pile of rubble.

FIFTY YEARS AGO THIS WEEK a series of six tornadoes swept through the Twin Cities area of Minnesota – the evening of May 6, 1965. We were reminded of this tragic event a few days ago when we received the above photo from Joseph Finley – which he posted on our Woody Boater Facebook page.

Minnesota correspondent and long-time resident Dane Anderson remembers that day in 1965 well – “I was a young boy at the time, but have vivid memories of that night. My Dad brought our brand new Glastron V-155 Fireflite home that day and tucked it away in the single car garage since it wasn’t insured yet. One of the tornadoes hit the house across the street and the house behind us, but hopped over our house.”

“That night was the first time that authorities used the Civil Defense Air-Raid Sirens to signal a tornado warning in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-Saint Paul). Even though there was significant loss of life and many more injuries, the air-raid siren warnings were credited for saving many lives.”

“Multiple f4 tornadoes mark this as the worst tornado outbreak in Minnesota history. Six or more tornadoes hit the metro area. Some areas were hit by two tornadoes the same night!”

“Tornado #6 (described below) was the one that hit our neighborhood in Golden Valley. Our yard was littered with debris from neighbor’s homes.” – Dane Anderson

Minnetonka Boat Works storage facility.

The remains from the tornadoes that rolled through the Minnetonka Boat Works storage facility in Deephaven. – Photo from the book “Hidden Revealed” – A sequel account of the May 6, 1965 tornado outbreak, by Allen W. Taylor.

Much has been written about this tragic weather event over the years. Local meteorologist Paul Hutter wrote a great piece on his Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) blog in 2014 – describing in great detail what was going on that night, and how it changed his life. Here is an excerpt from that story in 2014. – Texx

Twin Cities ‘Tornado Swarm’ 49 Years Ago

Where were you 49 years ago this week?

If you were anywhere near the Twin Cities metro area, you remember that day vividly.

For me, May 6, 1965 is my first living memory. Our home was within a half mile of the path of the devastating Deephaven Tornado that day.

Fortunately, May 6 – 1965 still stands 49 years later as the biggest tornado outbreak in Twin Cities history. Here’s an excellent summary of events from the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service.

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The May 6, 1965 Tornadoes
Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service

The worst tornadoes in Minnesota Twin Cities history occurred on May 6, 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the 7-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 injured.

Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the outstanding communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather.

There were two photographs of tornadoes – the Deephaven tornado and the second Fridley tornado were both published in the Minneapolis Tribune. It is unknown whether anybody else took pictures of any of the tornadoes that day.

MN Tornado Track - Copy

May 6th, 1965 Tornado outbreak sequence from Lake Minnetonka to Fridley, MN. (Source – NOAA National Weather Service) There were two tornadoes on the ground at Lake Minnetonka at the same time (center of photo). On this chart the 6:08 tornado went up through Navarre (where the above photo was taken). The 6:27 Tornado went straight north through Deephaven. If you look at those time stamps you’ll see they were hitting the lake at the same time. You can imagine the radio coverage while those storms were hitting with multiple tornadoes to report simultaneously. – Dane

Tornado #1 – touched down at 6:08 p.m. CST just east of Cologne (Carver County), was on the ground for 13 miles, and dissipated in the northwestern portion of Minnetrista (Hennepin County). It was rated an F4, killed three people and injured 175.

Tornado #2 – touched down at 6:27 p.m. CST near Lake Susan in Chanhassen (Carver County) and traveled 7 miles straight north to Deephaven (Hennepin County). It was rated an F4, was on the ground for 7 miles, but resulted in no injuries or fatalities.

Tornado #3 – touched down at 6:34 p.m. CST about 3 miles east of New Auburn (Sibley County) and moved to just west of Lester Prairie (McLeod County). On the ground for 16 miles, it was rated an F3, but there were no injuries or fatalities.

Tornado #4 – touched down at 6:43 p.m. CST about two miles east of Green Isle (Sibley County), was on the ground 11 miles, and dissipated about two miles southwest of Waconia (Carver County). It was rated an F2, killed one person, and injured 175.

Tornado #5 – touched down at 7:06 p.m. CST in the southwesternmost corner of Fridley (Anoka County), moved across the Northern Ordnance plant, and dissipated just northeast of Laddie Lake in Blaine (Anoka County). It was on the ground for 7 miles, reached F4 intensity, killed three people and injured 175.

Tornado #6 – touched down at 8:14 p.m. CST in Golden Valley, moved across north Minneapolis (Hennepin County) and into Fridley (Anoka County), then Mounds View (Ramsey County), and finally dissipated just west of Centerville (Anoka County). This was rated an F4, killed six people and injured 158, and was on the ground for 18 miles.

disaster Lake Minnitonka - WB

An aerial photo of the Minnetonka Boat Works facility that was devastated by the tornadoes on May 6, 1965. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it)

Paul Huttner is Chief Meteorologist for Minnesota Public Radio. You can see Paul’s full story on his MPR blog by Clicking Here.

Although Minnetonka Boat Works was an authorized Chris-Craft Dealer at the time, it appears from the photos that there were many different types of (now classic) boats effected by the tornadoes that day in 1965.

Thanks to Joseph Finley for sending us the photo via Facebook.


13 replies
  1. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Have seen that picture many times, once even on a placemat and often wondered where it was taken…Thanks for giving us the full story. I suspect in 1965, many of them weren’t collectables yet. I guess Hagerty and Carla weren’t insuring them then either.

  2. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    My aunt, uncle and cousin’s home was on Casco Point, near that photo of Navarre. Their big old classic Lake Minnetonka home was reduced to rubble, but they all were safe in the basement. My uncle’s Sea Skiff and seaplane survived and I believe are both still on the lake. I was seven years old, but I still remember driving up with my family and seeing the devastation.

  3. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    I’ve always wondered is the 19′ barrel right in the middle of the pic still exists. Think about how many boats are under that floor structure

  4. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    That photo is a tough way to start a Monday morning!
    It brought to mind another devastating story that occurred near Cass Lake, Michigan around 1980. Newkirk’s was a boat yard that repaired and stored wood boats. During the winter storage season when the barn was full of winterized boats, the Keego harbor fire department was alerted to a fire at the yard. As the mainly volunteer firemen arrived, they could see that it could not be saved. One or two of the men maned the pumper truck and poured water on the fire. The others who all arrived in their own pickup trucks started backing into the burning building to pull out boats. Some of the boats still burned, but many were saved due to the quick thinking of a group of brave firemen that were not going to watch all of those boats burn.

    • Michael
      Michael says:

      I remember that fire. i was just a kid grew up on lake sherwood. if memory serves me well it was an insurance job.

    • Joseph
      Joseph says:

      Another photo (above) from the Deephaven area of Lake Minnetonka from the book “Minnetonka Tornado Story.”
      Published by Tonka Printing Co, Excelsior MN. Photos by Gordon W. and Ronald H. Hughes, story by R.C. Jefferson.

  5. Bert Harris
    Bert Harris says:

    Looks like the Boston Whaler didn’t do too bad. Should have a contest. Name as many boats as you can. See who gets the correct answer.
    Sad day for sure.

  6. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    I did this awhile ago on Facebook but here is the photo from one of Bob Speltz’ book. I numbered each boat and identified them.

    1 Unknown
    2 Mid 1950s Chris Craft Holiday 18 or 20.
    3 Mid 50s Chris Craft Continental 20 or 23
    4 Unknown
    5 Mid 1950s Chris Craft continental 20
    6 1957 Chris Craft Sportsman 17’.
    7 1960s Chris Craft Caviler
    8 1950s Chris Craft Continental 20
    9 Unknown
    10 1959 or 60 Chris Craft Continental 18
    11 Early 1950s Chris Craft Utility 18’
    12 Unknown…
    13 Appears to be a late 50s 17’ Chris Craft sportsman but maybe not
    14 Early 1950s Chris Craft Utility 18’
    15 Chris Craft Capri 19’ around 1955-56
    16 Most likely a Chris Craft Sea Skiff un sure of the size…
    17 Early 1950s Chris Craft Riviera 131 hp engine. Appears to be 20’
    18 Unknown fiberglass outboard logo is visible
    19 1960s Chris Craft Holiday …. 18 or 20’
    20 Early 1950s Chris Craft Holiday looks to be 20’, maybe 18’
    21 Early 1950s Chris Craft Riviera 18’
    22 Unknown
    23 Unknown
    24 1950s Sea Skiff approx 18’
    25 1948-49 Chris Craft 16’ Special Runabout…
    26 Around 1941 Chris Craft Custom Runabout 19
    27 Unknown
    28 Unknown
    29 1957 Chris Craft Continental 20’
    30 unknown
    31 Somewhere around 1940 Chris Craft Sportsman 20’
    32 Unknown
    33 Unknown skiff
    34 1960s Chris Craft SeaSkiff size unknown but around 22’
    35 1956 Century Resorter 18’
    36 Early 1950s Chris Craft Riviera 18 or 20’
    37 Late 1940s early 1950s Chris Craft Racing Runabout 19’
    38 Unknown
    39 Appears to be a late 40s or early 1950s Chris Craft Sportsman
    40 Somewhere around 1955 Chris Craft Sportsman 17’
    41 Early 1950s Chris Craft Riviera 18’
    42 Unknown fiberglass outboard
    43 Around 1957 Chris Craft Continental 18 or 20’
    44 1955-1958 Chris Craft Capri 19’

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