Five dead and dozens injured in tornadoes that tore through Iowa, say officials

23 May 2024, 11:24

Residents hug in front of their tornado-damaged home in Greenfield, Iowa
APTOPIX Severe Weather Iowa. Picture: PA

The twister that hit the city of Greenfield was so destructive that it took authorities more than a day to account for the area’s residents.

Four people died and nearly three dozen were injured when a tornado hit a small city in Iowa, US officials said, while a fifth person was killed elsewhere.

The twister that tore through Greenfield on Tuesday was rated at least an EF-3 by the country’s National Weather Service and was so destructive that it took authorities more than a day to account for the area’s residents.

It is believed that the number of people injured is likely to be higher, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said.

The fifth person was killed about 25 miles (40km) from Greenfield when her car was blown off the road in a tornado, according to
the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Monica Zamarron, 46, died in the crash on Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

Officials have not yet released the names of the other victims.

The severe weather turned south on Wednesday. In Texas, officials issued an emergency declaration in Temple, a city of more than 90,000 people north of Austin, after powerful storms ripped through the area. Thousands of residents lost power, schools cancelled lessons for Thursday and nearby Fort Cavazos reported significant debris blocking traffic at the army installation.

Tornado-damaged property in Greenfield
The Greenfield tornado obliterated homes, splintered trees and crumpled cars (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

In Iowa, the Greenfield tornado obliterated homes, splintered trees and crumpled cars in the town of 2,000 about 55 miles (89km) southwest of Des Moines. The twister also crumpled massive power-producing wind turbines several miles outside the city.

Greenfield resident Kimberly Ergish and her husband dug through the debris field on Wednesday that used to be their home, looking for family photos and other salvageable items. There was not much left, she said . The reality of having her house destroyed in seconds had not really set in, she added.

“If it weren’t for all the bumps and bruises and the achy bones, I would think that it didn’t happen,” Ms Ergish said.

The deadly twister was spawned during a historic tornado season in the US, at a time when climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.

The tornado crumpled massive power-producing wind turbines several miles outside of Greenfield
The tornado also crumpled massive power-producing wind turbines several miles outside of Greenfield (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

By the end of Tuesday, 859 tornadoes had been confirmed this year, 27% more than the US sees on average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Centre. Iowa has so far recorded the most, with 81 confirmed twisters.

On Tuesday alone, the National Weather Service said it had received 23 tornado reports, with 21 in Iowa.

Tuesday’s storms also pummelled parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers in the two states.

The National Weather Service said initial surveys indicated at least an EF-3 tornado in Greenfield, but additional damage assessment could lead to a more powerful ranking.

The tornado appeared to have been on the ground for more than 40 miles (64km), AccuWeatherchief meteorologist Jon Porter said.

Workers search the remains of tornado-damaged homes in Greenfield
Workers searched the remains of tornado-damaged homes in Greenfield (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

A satellite photo taken by a BlackSky Technology shows where the twister gouged a nearly straight path of destruction through the town, just south of Greenfield’s centre square.

“Debris was lifted thousands of feet in the air and ended up falling to the ground several counties away from Greenfield. That’s evidence of just how intense and deadly this tornado was,” Mr Porter said.

People 100 miles (160km) away from Greenfield posted photos on Facebook of ripped family photos, yearbook pages and other items that were lifted into the sky by the tornado.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s administrator would be in Iowa on Thursday and that the White House was in touch with state and local officials.

She said they were “praying for those who tragically lost their lives” and wished those injured a “speedy recovery”.

Kimberly Ergish sits amid the ruins of her tornado-damaged home
Greenfield resident Kimberly Ergish sifted through debris looking for family photos and other salvageable items (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Greenfield’s 25-bed hospital was among the buildings damaged, and at least a dozen people who were hurt had to be taken to facilities elsewhere.

Hospital officials said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the hospital would remain closed and that full repairs could take weeks or months.

An urgent care clinic was set up at a primary school with primary care services due to get under way on Thursday, the post said.

By Press Association

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