IA Tornadoes Cause Damage, Injuries 07/20 06:29
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A flurry of unexpected tornadoes swept through
central Iowa, injuring at least 17 people, flattening buildings in three cities
and forcing the evacuation of a hospital.
Residents --- and even weather forecasters --- were taken by surprise
Thursday as the tornadoes hit Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant. Ten people
were injured in Marshalltown and seven at a factory near Pella, but no deaths
Alex Krull, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines,
said forecasting models produced Thursday morning showed only a slight chance
of strong thunderstorms later in the day.
"This morning, it didn't look like tornadic supercells were possible," Krull
said. "If anything, we were expecting we could get some large hail, if strong
Marshalltown, a city of 27,000 people about 50 miles (80 kilometers)
northeast of Des Moines, appeared to have been hit the hardest. Brick walls
collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of the
historic courthouse tumbled 175 feet (53 meters) to the ground.
The only hospital in Marshalltown was damaged, spokeswoman Amy Varcoe said.
All 40 of the patients at UnityPoint Health were being transferred to the
health system's larger hospital in Waterloo as well as one in Grundy Center,
The emergency room in the smaller Marshalltown hospital remained open to
treat patients injured in the storm, Varcoe said. Ten people hurt in the storm
had been treated, she said. She did not know how serious those patients'
Marshalltown resident Stephanie Moz said she, her husband and 2-month-old
baby were in the downtown clothing store she owns when tornado sirens went off.
The family sought shelter in the building's basement and heard "cracking and
booms and explosions" as the tornado passed.
The storm broke out a window, ruining clothing and hats on display there,
and destroyed her husband's vehicle. But she said she's relieved.
"We went through a tornado and survived," Moz said. "I'm happy."
Additional funnels were reported as the storm moved east of Des Moines past
Altoona, Prairie City and Colfax.
National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said two primary storms
spawned the series of tornadoes. One developed in the Marshalltown area,
causing damage there, while the other started east of Des Moines and traveled
through Bondurant and into Pella.
The exact number of tornadoes and their strength will be determined later.
Iowa State Rep. Mark Smith, who lives in Marshalltown, told Des Moines
station KCCI-TV that the area likely will be declared a disaster area. Smith
said much of downtown was damaged. He said his house and neighborhood were
spared, but surrounding homes were hit.
"There are houses with windows out, houses without roofs," he said. "It's
just an absolute mess."
Another tornado hit agricultural machinery maker Vermeer Manufacturing in
the town of Pella, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines.
People were still working at the plant at the time. The storm scattered huge
sheets of metal through a parking lot and left one building with a huge hole in
Seven people injured at the plant were taken to Pella Regional Health
Center, hospital spokeswoman Billie Rhamy said. They all were released after
being treated for their minor injuries, Rhamy said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds told WHO-TV in Des Moines that two of Vermeer's buildings
in Pella were demolished in the storm. She said Vermeer was hosting 500
customers for an appreciation day when the weather hit. She credited the
company's security team with moving them all to safety.
Reynolds added that in Marshalltown, the state is providing a communications
trailer and workers to help maintain emergency communications there. She said
Marshalltown's building housing its local communications system was damaged.