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Straight-line winds or tornado rips down thousands of trees in northern Black Hills

SPEARFISH, S.D. -- Officials are still determining if straight-line winds or a tornado uprooted and snapped off pine and aspen trees for a 15-mile stretch through the northern Black Hills, causing roads and trails to close.

Steve Kozel, district ranger for the Black Hills National Forest in the area, said on Tuesday, July 3, he didn’t know how many trees were lost but he said there “wouldn’t be enough fingers in the city of Spearfish to count all of them.”

The storm, which hit last Friday afternoon, left a 15-mile trail of downed trees from near the Wyoming border to  the Spearfish Canyon Lodge near the town of Spearfish. Kozel speculated that the width of damage was from about a half-mile to 2 miles wide.

Three trails were still closed Tuesday and Kozel warned that many trees were in the precarious positions of leaning, weakened or hanging on branches in the area and posed a danger to people.

He said visitors should probably avoid the area to allow crews to complete the cleanup, open roads and clear more of the trails. Fencelines were also damaged.

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