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After tornado, helping hands reach out fast in Watford City

A cat found in the rubble of a mobile home destroyed by Tuesday morning's tornado in Watford City rests in the arms of Andrew Anderson, a missionary helping the Red Cross, at the Prairie View RV Park Tuesday, July 10. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

WATFORD CITY — Less than 12 hours after a tornado struck Watford City, an American Red Cross emergency shelter was running out of space for community donations.

Rob Stotz, executive director for the Dakotas Region Red Cross, said the response from the community was so overwhelming that he needed to spread word that they didn't need more clothing donations.

"We've got tons of clothing, tons of items that are great, it's just we're running out of space," Stotz said. "It's amazing how many people are coming through and just want to contribute."

The Red Cross also had so many offers of businesses wanting to provide meals, including from as far away as Dickinson, that Stotz had to start a schedule.

The outpouring was not a surprise to McKenzie County emergency manager Karolin Jappe, who saw a similar response from the community four years ago when a tornado struck a different RV park.

"I have never lived in a place that is so loving and caring and kind," Jappe said.

Watford City Police Chief Shawn Doble said the support from emergency responders in the region was so fast that law enforcement had completed searching the entire RV park by the time the sun rose.

Volunteers went through the RV park to help storm victims recover valuables, such as missing wallets and important documents.

Andrew Anderson, part of a group of missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said they recovered an iPad, an Apple watch, checkbooks and some tax documents in the debris. He also discovered a cat that was hiding beneath a dresser and turned it over to law enforcement to take to a local veterinarian.

Gov. Doug Burgum, who toured the damage late Tuesday and met with local and state officials, thanked all of the responders who arrived to help and commended the neighbors who were helping neighbors.

"This is what Watford does. People are opening up their hearts, people are opening up their homes," Burgum said. "We don't have to worry about the personal outreach in this town."

A fundraising account has been set up at Cornerstone Bank for people affected by the tornado.

Jappe said the county plans to have Lutheran Social Services handle the fund distribution after reviewing cases of those affected.

"Four years ago, $42,000 was raised for tornado victims with donations coming from across North Dakota and Montana," Jappe said.

"It was just amazing the donations we'd get in," she said.

A Go Fund Me account was established Tuesday for the family of the 6-day-old boy who died. The fund, which raised $4,000 as of Tuesday evening, can be found at

Donations also can be directed to the American Red Cross disaster relief through