Iowa tornadoes: Five dead, 36 injured, officials say as severe weather batters US states

Iowa tornadoes: Five dead, 36 injured, officials say as severe weather batters US states

A deadly tornado that ripped through the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, left four people dead and nearly three dozen injured, officials said, while a fifth person was killed elsewhere.

The twister that tore through the city on Tuesday was rated at least EF-3 by the National Weather Service and was so destructive that it took authorities more than a day to count residents in the area.

The number of people injured is believed to be possibly higher, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said.

A fifth person was killed about 25 miles from Greenfield when her car was thrown off the road in a tornado, according to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Monica Zamarron, 46, died in the crash 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 residents north of Austin, after strong storms battered the area. Thousands of residents lost power, schools canceled classes for Thursday and nearby Fort Cavazos reported major debris blocking traffic at the Army installation.

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

Greenfield resident Kimberly Ergish and her husband dug through the rubble field that was their home Wednesday, looking for family photos and other salvageable items. There wasn’t much left, she admitted. The reality of having the house destroyed in seconds didn’t really set in, she said.

“If it wasn’t for all the bumps and bruises and sore bones, I would think it didn’t happen,” Ergish said.

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

As of Tuesday, 859 tornadoes had been confirmed this year, 27 percent more than the U.S. sees on average, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Iowa has recorded the most so far, with 81 confirmed twisters.

On Tuesday alone, the National Weather Service said it had received 23 reports of tornadoes, including 21 in Iowa.

Tuesday’s storms also hit 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 further damage assessment could lead to a stronger rating.

The tornado appeared to be on the ground for more than 40 miles (64 kilometers), said Jon Porter, AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist. A satellite photo taken by a BlackSky technology shows where the twister cut an almost straight path of destruction through the city, just south of Greenfield’s central square.

“The nets were lifted thousands of feet in the air and ended up falling to the ground several counties away from Greenfield. That’s a testament to how intense and deadly this tornado was,” Porter said.

People as far as 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from Greenfield posted photos on Facebook of torn family photos, yearbook pages and other items that were blown skyward by the tornado.

About 90 miles (145 kilometers) away in Ames, Iowa, Nicole Banner found a yellowed page declaring “This book is the property of the Greenfield Community School District” taped to her garage door like a post-it after she passed the storm.

“We couldn’t believe he had traveled that far,” she said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the FEMA administrator will be in Iowa on Thursday and that the White House has been in touch with state and local officials. She said she was “praying for those who tragically lost their lives” and wished the injured a “speedy recovery”.

The 25-bed hospital in Greenfield was among the damaged buildings, and at least a dozen injured people had to be taken to facilities elsewhere. Hospital officials said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the hospital will remain closed and that full repairs could take weeks or months. An urgent care clinic has been set up in an elementary school with primary care services, which will begin there on Thursday, the post said.

Residential streets that on Monday were lined with old trees and beautifully landscaped ranch-style homes were a chaotic jumble of broken and crushed remains on Wednesday. Many of the basements of the houses where the residents were sheltered were exposed, and the front yards were filled with goods, from furniture to children’s toys and Christmas decorations.

Roseann Freeland waited until the last minute to rush her husband into a concrete room in her basement. Seconds later, her husband opened the door “and you could just see the daylight,” Freeland said. “I just lost it. I totally lost it.”

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