By Matt Kelley, Radio Iowa
Nobody knows yet just how many tornadoes touched down in Iowa on Wednesday afternoon and evening, but the National Weather Service says there were at least 12 and perhaps as many as 16.
Miraculously, there are no injuries reported, but there’s damage to homes, businesses, trees and power lines across central and eastern Iowa.
Meteorologist Brooke Hagenhoff, at the National Weather Service in metro Des Moines, says they’re sending survey crews to the worst-hit communities.
“The most important thing is to go to the areas that had the most damage,” Hagenhoff says. “That for us today is going to be in Calhoun and Hamilton counties and also Bremer and Butler counties, and we’ll also likely swing through Tama County where Dysart got some damage.”
In this age where practically everyone has a smartphone, she says there’s plenty of evidence to sift through documenting the storm cells, large and small.
“For areas where the tornado maybe remained in open farmland and didn’t cause as much damage, a lot of those tornado ratings can be determined based off of the video and pictures that we get rather than visiting the site directly,” Hagenhoff says, “especially if it didn’t strike a home or cause any injuries.”
The Johnston office of the Weather Service covers western and central Iowa, where Hagenhoff says “at least a dozen” tornadoes were reported. Of those, one is standing out.
“Based off of video and pictures that we’ve seen, the Lake City tornado in Calhoun County appears to be the largest one,” Hagenhoff says. “Sometimes, the ones that are visually the largest may not actually be the strongest, but right now it looks like they’ve got the damage and just the size we’ve seen in pictures.”
Tom Philip is a meteorologist at the Davenport office of the National Weather Service, which covers Iowa’s eastern third. “We’ve got some crews going out to survey a couple of counties in different areas,” Philip says. “They’re headed to Jones County, Delaware County, Benton and Linn County.”
Philip would only say the damage in eastern Iowa is from four “possible” tornadoes. “There may have been more but that’s why we’re going out to survey to determine paths and strength,” Philip says, “and whether or not they were tornadoes, too, or just straight-line winds.”
Tornadoes were reported in or near the following communities: Dysart, Gowrie, Jewell, Lake City, Manchester, Mason City, Monticello, Nemaha, Stanhope, Stratford and Waverly.
In Story County, the town of Maxwell had more than five-and-a-half inches of rain, which brought flash flooding. Clarksville reported hail the size of ping pong balls. A Waverly man was reportedly trapped in his home for a time by downed trees and power lines, but he wasn’t hurt.
Forecasters say a few scattered showers remain today but the next several days should bring relatively calm weather, with mostly clear skies and highs in the 80s.