Tornadoes Strike Several Iowa Towns, Leaving Significant Damage; At Least 17 Injured

All Client Alert
July 20, 2018

Source: The Weather Channel

Additional Resources:

Office of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (Gov. Reynolds issues disaster proclamation for 4 counties)

To view a ZIP Code list of counties included under the governor's proclamation, please click here.

NOTE: This is independent from any FEMA Declared Disaster.

Safeguard Properties Disaster Update Center

Please see below for reported approximate areas sustaining property damage:

Iowa
Bondurant (Polk County, 50035)
Marshalltown (Marshall County, 50158)
Pella (Marion County, 50219)

This has NOT yet been declared a Presidential Major Disaster.

Cleanup was under Friday after severe storms and tornadoes swept through Iowa on Thursday, damaging homes and businesses and injuring at least 17 people.

The central Iowa cities of Marshalltown, Bondurant and Pella were hardest hit. At least 10 people were injured in Marshalltown and seven at a factory near Pella. No deaths were reported. As of Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service said five tornadoes have been confirmed in Iowa, but damage surveys are ongoing and that number is likely to increase.

In Marshalltown, about 50 miles northeast of Des Moines, the state capital, several homes and businesses were severely damaged, in this city of about 27,000 people. A state of emergency was declared. A preliminary analysis suggests Marshalltown had up to 43 minutes of lead time before the tornado hit.

The iconic 16-foot cupola of the Marshall County Courthouse, a limestone building on the National Register of Historic Places, was knocked 175 feet to the ground. The NWS relayed reports of "catastrophic damage," with overturned vehicles and tops of buildings "gone."

"It was bad. I've seen a lot of tornado stuff (in the past)," Des Moines resident Julie Owen, in town to visit her daughter, told CNN. "It's not like the whole town is destroyed, but downtown, a city of this size, it was something else."

At the UnityPoint Health facility, patients were evacuated to a nearby hospital after the building was damaged by the tornado. No injuries were reported, and the emergency room remained open.

"Everyone is advised to stay away from downtown Marshalltown until further notice," City Administrator Jessica Kinser said in a statement obtained by CNN.com. "We also ask that people stay off cell lines unless necessary, to allow for emergency phone traffic."

Joel Greer, mayor of Marshalltown, told The Weather Channel on Friday that the city is resilient and he has no doubt they'll rebuild.

Clothing store owner Stephanie Moz and her husband were eating lunch with their 2-month-old baby when the twister approached, so they took shelter in the basement of the business, she told the Associated Press. After the tornado rushed over them, damaging the shop and destroying her husband's car, they emerged unharmed.

"We went through a tornado and survived," Moz said. "I’m happy."

Minutes earlier, a separate tornado hit the Vermeer Corp. plant, a farm and construction equipment manufacturer near Pella, injuring seven. All were released after being treated at Pella Regional Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman told the AP.

Following a damage survey, the tornado was rated EF3 with winds as high as 144 mph. It was Iowa's first EF3-or-higher tornado in July since July 27, 1995.

Andrew Betts, of Atlanta, who was in Pella for Vermeer's customer appreciation day, told The Weather Channel on Friday morning that he was ushered to a tornado shelter with some 30 other people about 20 minutes before the tornado hit Thursday.

"It hit, passed over, and it was gone," he said.

He praised Vermeer for its safety precautions and tornado preparation processes.

The company, which employs more than 2,700, was hosting an appreciation day for more than 400 customers and dealers to celebrate the company's 70th anniversary when the tornado hit, said Jason Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer. The visitors and employees were directed to tornado shelters on the Vermeer campus.

Two of the company's buildings were demolished. Andringa said he was thankful that most of the buildings on the Vermeer campus received zero to little damage.

"We are certainly going to rebuild," Andringa said. "We are going to come back stronger than ever."

Before the tornado hit Pella, it struck Bondurant in Polk County, about 15 miles northeast of Des Moines.

T.J. Phillips, who captured the Bondurant tornado on video as it tore through a neighborhood, can be heard saying, "Houses are being torn to shreds. Oh, my God."

Lt. Rick Blaylock of the Polk County Sheriff's Office told The Weather Channel roofs were blown off homes. He said there were minor injuries but no deaths, and officials were going door-to-door to check on residents.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg will tour damage in Marshalltown Friday, and will also survey damage in Bondurant and Pella with Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management acting Director Joyce Flinn.

"Devastated to see the destruction from today's severe storms & tornadoes," tweeted Reynolds on Thursday evening. "Praying for all Iowans impacted & for the emergency management crews responding tonight."

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