WINTERSET, IOWA – Seven people were killed, including two children, as several tornadoes swept through central Iowa, destroying homes and toppling trees and power lines in the state’s biggest storm in more than a decade, authorities said.
Madison County emergency management officials said four people were injured and six were killed Saturday when a tornado hit the southwestern area of Des Moines near the town of Winterset at about 4:30 p.m. local time. Among the dead were two children under the age of five and four adults.
In Lucas County, about 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Des Moines, officials confirmed one death and multiple injuries when a separate tornado hit less than an hour later.
The state’s Department of Natural Resources said the deceased was in an RV at a campground in Red Haw State Park in Chariton, Iowa.
The tornado-inducing storms moved through much of Iowa Saturday afternoon through Saturday night with the storms also causing damage in the Norwalk suburb of Des Moines, areas immediately east of Des Moines, and other areas. other areas in eastern Iowa. The storms are driven by warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
Officials said several homes were damaged or destroyed, roads were blocked by downed power lines and tree branches were broken by strong winds. At one point, the power outage affected about 10,000 people in the Des Moines area.
The biggest hurricane to hit Iowa since May 2008 when a tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in Parkersburg, northern Iowa. Another tornado a month later killed four boys at the Little Sioux Boy Scout ranch in western Iowa.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines tweeted early Sunday morning that there have been at least three tornado-generating thunderstorms, but “it’s not clear at this point how many tornadoes have occurred.”
Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini said there were plenty of examples of deadly storms in March, although they were more common in April and May. Saturday’s storms were not nearly as unusual as the mid-December tornado outbreak that Iowa saw last year, he said.
“The storms that make these tornadoes — supercell storms — they don’t care what the calendar says,” Gensini said. “It doesn’t have to say June. It doesn’t have to say May. They form whenever components are present. And they were certainly present yesterday.”
Scientists have said that extreme weather events and warmer temperatures are more likely with human-caused climate change. Scientifically, however, attributing a storm system to global warming requires specific analysis and computer simulations, is time-consuming, unrealized, and sometimes impossible. shows a clear relationship.
Gensini said Saturday’s storms are likely to cause more than $1 billion in damage their entire path as severe damage in Iowa combines with wind damage as far away as Illinois.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration for Madison County, authorizing the use of state resources to support response and recovery efforts. Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said 52 homes were damaged or destroyed over nearly 14 miles.
After touring the storm damage near Winterset, Reynolds described the “unimaginable devastation.”
Reynolds broke down in tears as she described hundreds of people who had flocked to the area to volunteer to help them clear the debris that clogs roads and litters in the worst-affected areas. Homeowners and volunteers were picking up wood chips and starting to clear it Sunday in the rolling hills south of Winterset as plane saws whirred in the background.
“It was unbelievable. I tried to go over and thank them and over and over again (and) the response was, we’re Iowans and that’s what we do,” she said.
Foundations are all that remains of some houses. The tornado created a path of destruction along a mountainside while other homes several hundred meters away were undamaged.
Ayala said emergency responders navigated narrow streets blocked by fallen trees and debris on Saturday night to help after the storm.
“With the trees and debris and everything around, just to go out there and start the search and rescue and get the affected people out of there, I can’t fully express the heroism of the rescuers. first got out there last night,” Ayala said.
Officials identified the six people killed in Madison County as Melissa Bazley, 63; Rodney Clark, 64 years old; Cecilia Lloyd, 72 years old; Michael Bolger, 37 years old; Kenley Bolger, 5 years old; and Owen Bolger, 2. The victims came from three different households.
Lucas County officials did not immediately identify who died there Sunday afternoon.
Six people injured in Madison County, known for the book and movie “Bridges of Madison County,” were treated for their injuries Sunday, but their conditions were not immediately available.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines posted on Twitter Saturday that initial images and video of the damage around the community of Winterset suggest it was at least an EF-3 tornado, potentially causing damage. serious damage, on the Advanced Fujita scale. It said weather service teams would investigate the damage Sunday and further assess the possibility of ratings.
EF-3 hurricanes typically have winds between 136 mph and 165 mph.
The storm that created Saturday’s tornadoes hung together for about 100 miles from the Nebraska border to central Iowa but it won’t be clear until the damage assessment is complete, how long the individual tornadoes will stay on the ground.
Elsewhere, the National Weather Service said the storms produced an EF-1 tornado in southeastern Wisconsin near Stoughton with winds of up to 80 mph. The storm toppled trees, broke power poles and blew out windows in homes. No injuries have been reported.
Associated Press reporter Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report. Funk donation from Omaha, Nebraska.