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US weather team inspecting North Dakota tornado

May 27, 2014

WATFORD CITY, North Dakota (AP) — U.S. investigators headed to North Dakota on Tuesday to assess the strength of a tornado that injured nine people, including a 15-year-old girl who suffered critical injuries, and damaged or destroyed 15 trailers at a workers’ camp in the heart of the state’s booming oil patch.

The twister touched down about 7:50 p.m. Monday (0050 GMT) at a camp for oil workers in western North Dakota. The girl was flown to a hospital. Authorities said early Tuesday that the girl, who was visiting an aunt and uncle, was in an intensive-care unit but was expected to survive.

Eight other people were treated for lesser injuries. The American Red Cross said eight residents spent the night at a shelter and that several families were among those displaced.

A heavily damaged truck was flipped over on the highway and several other abandoned vehicles were nearby. Road signs were flattened and tumbleweeds pushed up against some electrical wires. Four trailers and a couple of other prefabricated buildings were still standing.

The National Weather Service said two meteorologists and an emergency response specialist went to survey the damage at the camp. He said the agency should be able to rate the tornado on the enhanced Fujita scale after getting a firsthand look.

The oil boom has brought tens of thousands of people into the area looking for work. Many live in hastily assembled trailer parks, known as man camps, housing pre-fabricated structures that resemble military barracks. Some companies rent blocks of hotel rooms for employees, and some workers sleep in their cars or in tents.

The growth of temporary housing also means there is more of a chance for death, injury and destruction from tornadoes, meteorologist Ken Simosko said.

“People living in trailers creates a very dangerous situation because there is no protection,” Simosko said.

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Contact Wood at https://twitter.com/JWoodAP

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