Officials report 7 deaths in tornadoes that ravaged central Iowa

Authorities said seven people, including two children were killed in tornadoes that swept through central Iowa.

Officials report 7 deaths in tornadoes that ravaged central Iowa

The storms destroyed homes, knocked down trees, and cut power lines. It was the deadliest storm in the state in over a decade.

Officials from Madison County reported that six people died and four others were injured when a tornado struck the area southwest of Des Moines, near Winterset, at around 4:30 p.m. Two children below five years old were among the victims, as well as four adults.

Officials confirmed that one person died and several injuries were sustained in the Lucas County, located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Des Moines. The tornado hit less than an hour afterward.

According to the state Department of Natural Resources, the person who died was found in an RV in a campground at Red Haw State Park Chariton, Iowa.

Thunderstorms that produced tornadoes swept through Iowa between Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Storms also caused damage in Norwalk, a suburb of Des Moines, as well as other parts of eastern Iowa. Warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico fueled the storms.

Officials said that many homes were destroyed or damaged, roads were blocked due to downed wires and trees were felled by strong winds. More than 10,000 people were without power in Des Moines at one time. Sunday night saw 800 customers without power.

Since May 2008, when a tornado in northern Iowa killed nine people and destroyed almost 300 homes in Parkersburg, the storms have been the most deadly to hit Iowa. A month later, a tornado struck the Little Sioux Boy Scout Ranch in western Iowa. It killed four more boys.

Victor Gensini, a Northern Illinois University meteorology professor, said that there have been many examples of deadly storms occurring in March, even though they are more frequent in April and May. He said Saturday's storms weren't nearly as common as the tornado outbreak in Iowa last year.

Gensini stated that the storms that produce tornadoes, these supercell storms, don't care about what the calendar says. It doesn't need to be June. It doesn't need to be May. They form when the ingredients are present. They were present even yesterday.

Scientists believe that climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme weather and higher temperatures. But scientifically attributing a hurricane system to global warming requires detailed analysis and computer simulations, which can take time and are sometimes unclear.

Gensini stated that Saturday's storms could have caused more than $1Billion in damage over their entire path, when combined with wind damage from Illinois and Iowa.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration for Madison County. This allows state resources to be used in response to and recovery efforts. Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala stated that 52 homes were destroyed or damaged over a distance of nearly 14 miles.

According to the White House, President Joe Biden was briefed on Sunday about the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike in Iowa. Biden called Reynolds and instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security leaders to keep in touch with local and state officials, as they assess damage and determine what federal assistance is needed.

Reynolds described the "unimaginable destruction" after touring the storm damage in Winterset.

Reynolds chuckled as she spoke of the many people who came to the area to help clear the debris from roads and areas that were most affected. As chainsaws whirred in the background, homeowners and volunteers began to pick up wood debris from the hills south of Winterset and begin to remove it.

It's unbelievable. I tried to thank them all and walk by, but they kept saying "We're Iowans" and she did not know what that meant.

Many homes were left without foundations. While the tornado created a path of destruction along a mountain ridge, other homes were unaffected.

Ayala stated that emergency responders had to navigate narrow roads blocked by debris and trees Saturday night in order to assist after the storm.

Ayala stated, "With trees, debris, and all around, just to go outside and start the search-and-rescue and get the people affected out there, I cannot express my gratitude for the heroism and sacrifices of the first responders who were there last night."

Officials identified six victims killed in Madison County as Melissa Bazley (63), Rodney Clark (64), Cecilia Lloyd (72), Michael Bolger (37) and Kenley Bolger (5). Owen Bolger (22) was also named. Three households were responsible for the victims.

Officials in Lucas County didn't immediately identify Sunday's victim.

Six people were injured in Madison County. Madison County is well-known for its "Bridges of Madison County” movie and book. Their condition was not immediately known.

According to the National Weather Service, Des Moines, the tornado that struck Lucas County and killed one person was still on the ground for 16 miles (25.75 km) Sunday. It was rated an EF-3 by the Enhanced Fujita scale. The peak winds were 138 mph. Although the damage assessment for Winterset tornado won't be complete until Monday, the Weather Service tweeted Saturday that the initial photos of damage showed that the tornado was at least an EF-3 tornado.

The National Weather Service reported that the storms produced an EF-1 tornado in southeastern Wisconsin, near Stoughton. It was capable of producing winds up to 80 mph. The storm ripped power poles, flattened trees and blew out windows. There were no injuries.