Tornadoes Rampage Across Iowa, Killing 7, Officials Say

Tornadoes Rampage Across Iowa, Killing 7, Officials Say

Tornadoes Rampage Across Iowa, Killing 7, Officials Say

The National Weather Service said at least three tornadoes moved through the state on Saturday, including one with wind speeds of more than 135 miles per hour.

Seven people, including two children, were killed in Iowa on Saturday as communities across the state were battered by at least three tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes, the authorities said.

Six of the deaths occurred in Madison County, southwest of Des Moines, and a seventh was reported southeast of Chariton, a city in Lucas County, officials said.

In Madison County, six other people were injured, said Diogenes Ayala, the director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency.

After touring damaged neighborhoods and meeting with victims’ families on Sunday, Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa said at a news conference that the destruction she had witnessed was “devastating.”

“Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones and those who were impacted by the storm,” said Ms. Reynolds, who issued a disaster proclamation for Madison County on Saturday, allowing state resources to be used for response and recovery efforts.

The six people who were killed in different locations in Madison County were identified as: Melissa Bazley, 63; Rodney Clark, 64; Cecilia Lloyd, 72; Michael Bolger, 37; Kenley Bolger, 5; and Owen Bolger, 2.

Officials in Lucas County did not release details about the death there because family members had not been notified.

Alex Krull, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said on Sunday that at least three confirmed tornadoes had moved through the state, and officials were trying to determine if there had been even more.

Mr. Krull said powerful tornadoes are typical in the state in April and May, but are a “somewhat uncommon” occurrence in March.

Officials on Sunday were still trying to determine the size of the tornadoes and how far they traveled, but Mr. Krull said the thunderstorm that produced the tornado in Madison County traveled about 180 miles, and two other tornado-producing thunderstorms traveled about 120 miles.

The weather system that produced the thunderstorms in Iowa also produced a tornado near Dunkirk, Wis., southeast of Madison, with wind speeds of 95 miles per hour, said John Gagan, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Milwaukee.

In Iowa, The Weather Service said that a preliminary examination of photos and videos from around Winterset, a city in Madison County with a population of about 5,000, suggested damage from a tornado with wind speeds of more than 135 m.p.h.

The agency’s survey teams were still investigating the damage on Sunday.

Residents of Winterset were taking stock as well. Jonathan Barrett, the choir director at Winterset High School, was checking on family and friends throughout the day.

Roofs had been torn from homes, neighbors were offering their barns to store salvaged belongings, and debris was strewn across streets in the eastern and southern parts of the city, Mr. Barrett said.

He said he had heard the wind whipping his windows on Saturday as sirens sounded, and an alert on his phone warned him to seek shelter immediately. His home was ultimately spared, but three of his students — sisters who are in the seventh, 11th and 12th grades — lost their house.

The students took shelter in a closet with their parents as the tornado battered their home, said Mr. Barrett, who spoke to members of the family on Saturday night. They were not injured, he said.

“These girls, they basically were left with nothing except the clothes that they were wearing,” Mr. Barrett said.

Rick Goehry Jr., who works for Tree Guardian U.S.A., a landscape company, was driving through southern Des Moines, Norwalk and Runnells, Iowa, on Sunday, helping customers clear fallen trees and pieces of drywall.

He said he had counted at least 50 homes with significant damage as of Sunday afternoon.

“I’m seeing total devastation,” he said while on a brief break from sawing fallen trees. “Houses completely gone, lives uprooted. It’s pretty sad.”

Mr. Ayala of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency said on Sunday that 52 homes in the county had been destroyed or damaged by the tornado.

Video posted on social media and recorded south of Winterset showed the aftermath of the severe weather: piles of debris, smoke and a car flipped upside down.

Mike Lamb, the emergency management coordinator in Lucas County, said that one person remained hospitalized with serious injuries on Sunday, and that four to six homes had been damaged.

In Polk County, two people were injured and several roads were closed because of severe storm damage, according to the county Sheriff’s Office.

Several homes in Norwalk, about 10 miles south of Des Moines, were damaged along with the city’s public works site and some businesses, said Shelby Hisel, a city spokeswoman. No injuries were reported in Norwalk on Sunday.

In July, at least 12 tornadoes barreled across Iowa, with winds in some places reaching 145 m.p.h. and damaging several homes.

On July 19, 2018, 21 tornadoes ripped through the state, including two with wind speeds of 144 m.p.h., according to the Weather Service. Those tornadoes damaged multiple businesses and homes in Marshalltown and Pella, and injured 22 people.

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