Storms spin up tornadoes in Iowa that cause injuries, topple wind turbines (2024)

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Powerful storms that rolled through the Midwest spun up multiple tornadoes, including a fierce twister that smashed through a small Iowa town Tuesday, carving a bleak landscape of destroyed homes and businesses, shredded trees, smashed cars and widely strewn debris and causing an unknown number of injuries.

Storms spin up tornadoes in Iowa that cause injuries, topple wind turbines (1)

Multiple people were injured in Greenfield, a town of about 2,000 around 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines, said Iowa State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Alex Dinkla. He didn’t know the extent of the injuries.

In the aftermath of the storm, parts of Greenfield appeared devastated. Mounds of broken wood, branches, car parts and other debris littered lots where homes once stood. Cars lay busted and bent while damaged houses sat skewed against the gray and overcast sky. Trees stood — barely — bereft of branches or leaves. Residents helped each other salvage furniture and other belongings from mounds of debris or from homes barely left standing.

Rogue Paxton said he sheltered in the basem*nt of his home when the storm moved through. He told WOI-TV he thought the house was lost but said his family got lucky.

“But everyone else is not so much, like my brother Cody, his house just got wiped,” Paxton said. “Then you see all these people out here helping each other. ... Everything’s going to be fine because we have each other, but it’s just going to be really, really rough. It is a mess."

Multiple tornadoes were reported throughout the state, and one also apparently took down several 250-foot (76 meters) wind turbines. Des Moines, Iowa, television station KCCI-TV showed at least three wind turbines that were toppled by an apparent tornado in southwest Iowa, and at least one was in flames with black smoke pluming from the bent structure.

Wind farms are built to withstand tornadoes, hurricanes and other powerful winds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turbines are designed to shut off when winds exceed certain thresholds, typically around 55 mph (88.5 kph). They also lock and feather their blades, and turn into the wind, to minimize the strain.

The Adair County Health System hospital in Greenfield was damaged in the storm, but Mercy One spokesman Todd Mizener said he had no further details. The hospital is affiliated with Mercy One, and officials were on their way to Greenfield to assess the damage.

The town bills itself as “the friendly wave as you walk” type of place with tree-lined streets — before the storm — and “the crack of the fireworks or twinkle of the lights” on special holidays. Also touting itself as the “perfect place to grow,” Greenfield prides itself on being a town where business owners know your name and neighbors help neighbors, according to its visitors page.

Mary Long, the owner of Long’s Market in downtown Greenfield, said she rode out the storm at her business in the community’s historic town square, which largely escaped damage. Long said there appeared to be widespread damage on the east and south sides of town.

“I could hear this roaring, like the proverbial freight train, and then it was just done,” she said.

Camille Blair said the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce office where she works closed around 2 p.m. ahead of the storm. She emerged from her home to describe widespread damage and scattered debris.

“There’s a pretty significant roof damage to several houses that I know will need whole new roofs," she said. "And I can see from my house it kind of went in a straight line down the road.”

In far southwestern Iowa, video posted to social media showed a tornado just northwest of Red Oak. Further east and north, the National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings for areas near the towns of Griswold, Corning, Fontanelle and Guthrie Center, among others.

Iowa was already braced for severe weather after the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center gave most of the state a high chance of seeing severe thunderstorms with the potential for strong tornadoes. Des Moines public schools ended classes two hours early and canceled all evening activities ahead of the storms.

Earlier in the day, residents to the west in Omaha, Nebraska, awoke to weather sirens blaring and widespread power outages as torrential rain, high winds and large hail pummeled the area. The deluge of more than 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain in less than two hours flooded basem*nts and submerged cars. Television station KETV showed firefighters arriving to rescue people from vehicles.

In Illinois, dust storms forced authorities to shut down stretches of two interstates due to low visibility. Winds gusts of between 35 mph (56 kph) and 45 mph (74 kph) hit the McLean area, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Schaffer.

“There is no visibility at times,” state police posted on the social media platform X.

The storms followed days of extreme weather that have ravaged much of the middle section of the country. Strong winds, large hail and tornadoes swept parts of Oklahoma and Kansas late Sunday, damaging homes and injuring two in Oklahoma.

Another round of storms Monday night raked Colorado and western Nebraska and saw the city of Yuma, Colorado, blanketed in hail the size of baseballs and golf balls, turning streets into rivers of water and ice. Front-end loaders were used to move half-foot deep (1.83 meters deep) hail Tuesday.

Last week, deadly storms hit the Houston area in Texas, killing at least eight people. Those storms Thursday knocked out power to hundreds of thousands for days, leaving those Texans in the dark and without air conditioning during hot and humid weather. The total of deaths was raised Tuesday from seven to include a man who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while running a generator after his power went out. Hurricane-force winds reduced businesses and other structures to debris and shattered glass in downtown skyscrapers.

Tuesday's storms were expected to bring much of the same high winds, heavy rain and large hail to Minnesota and part of northern Missouri, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

He said the system is expected to turn south on Wednesday, bringing more severe weather to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Missouri.

Storms spin up tornadoes in Iowa that cause injuries, topple wind turbines (2024)


Storms spin up tornadoes in Iowa that cause injuries, topple wind turbines? ›

Storms that pummeled much of Nebraska with torrential rain, high winds and large hail spun up fierce tornados in Iowa Tuesday that caused extensive damage and an unknown number of injuries in at least one rural town and took down several 250-foot (76 meters) wind turbines.

How many people died in the Iowa tornado 2024? ›

National Weather Service survey teams confirmed all five deaths in Iowa were the result of the same EF-4 tornado. GREENFIELD, Iowa — The EF-4 tornado that ripped through Greenfield, Iowa, on May 21 is the deadliest twister in the United States so far this year.

Can a tornado destroy a wind turbine? ›

GREENFIELD, Iowa — One of the lasting images of the deadly tornadoes that swept through Iowa earlier this week were the scenes of toppled and burning wind turbines just outside of town as the tornado approached Greenfield.

How many people died in the Charles City, Iowa tornado? ›

This tornado was on the ground for 65 miles, destroyed nearly 2-thousand homes, and resulted in 15 fatalities and more than 450 injuries with most of those occurring in and around Charles City.

How big was the Iowa tornado? ›

Vehicles were tossed and mangled, with even some ripped apart piece by piece. When the National Weather Service surveyed the tornado in the following days, they estimated that it was of EF-4 intensity with winds between 175-185 mph. Example of EF-4 damage done to a home in Greenfield.

Has there ever been a Class 5 tornado? ›

Of the 59 tornadoes in the United States, 50 are officially rated F5 on the original Fujita scale (with dates of occurrence between May 11, 1953, and May 3, 1999), and nine are officially rated EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale (with dates of occurrence between May 4, 2007, and May 20, 2013).

How many EF5 tornadoes are in Iowa? ›

Since 1871, Iowa has had eleven F5/EF5 tornadoes (the most intense damage category on the Fujita and Enhanced Fujita damage scales - less than 1% of tornado occurrences - wind speeds greater than 200 mph). Since 1950, the United States has experienced fifty-three F5/EF5 tornadoes.

How many wind turbines are in Iowa? ›

As of 2022, Iowa has over 12,200 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity with over 6,000 wind turbines, ranking second and third in the nation below Texas respectively. Hanco*ck County Wind Energy Center in Hanco*ck County, Iowa, with 148 Vestas V47-660kW wind turbines for a total nameplate capacity of 97.68 MW.

At what wind speed do wind turbines shut down? ›

Measuring Wind Speed

When the anemometer registers wind speeds higher than 55 miles per hour (mph) (cut-out speed varyies by turbine), it triggers the wind turbine to automatically shut off.

Does rain damage wind turbines? ›

Whether it comes in the form of heavy rains, blistering heat, gusty winds, or icy winters, extreme weather can significantly impact the functionality of your wind turbine, leading to costly repairs and downtime.

Has there been an F6 tornado? ›

In total, two tornadoes received the rating of F6, but both were later downgraded to F5. Based on aerial photographs of the damage it caused, Fujita assigned the strongest tornado of the 1974 Super Outbreak, which affected Xenia, Ohio, a preliminary rating of F6 intensity ± 1 scale.

What was the worst tornado in history? ›

Deadliest single tornado in US history

The Tri-State tornado of March 18, 1925, killed 695 people in Missouri (11), Illinois (613), and Indiana (71). The outbreak it occurred with was also the deadliest known tornado outbreak, with a combined death toll of 747 across the Mississippi River Valley.

What Iowa town was destroyed by the tornado? ›

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people died Tuesday and at least a dozen were injured when a powerful tornado tore through a small Iowa town, carving a bleak landscape of destroyed homes and businesses, shredded trees, smashed cars, and widely strewn debris.

What town in Iowa got hit by a tornado yesterday? ›

The Iowa State Patrol confirmed multiple fatalities in Greenfield after a tornado blew through the Adair County town Tuesday afternoon.

What is the thickest tornado ever recorded? ›

Tornado: Widest Tornado (maximum diameter)
Record Value4184 meters (2.6mi) in width
Date of Event31/5 (May)/2013
Length of Record1950-present
Geospatial LocationEl Reno, Oklahoma [35°31'N, 97°57'W, elevation: 414m (1358ft)]

Has there ever been a mile wide tornado? ›

That's about how wide the monster El Reno, Oklahoma tornado on May 31, 2013 was. 2.6 miles wide to be exact. The El Reno tornado struck less than two weeks after a devastating EF5, mile wide tornado struck just 30 miles east/southeast of the area in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, doing catastrophic damage there.

How many people died in the Iowa tornado today? ›

The victims killed in the deadly tornado that all but flattened Greenfield have now been identified. The EF-4 tornado killed five on Tuesday, May 21 and was 1,000 yards wide at max width and estimated peak winds between 175 and 185 mph. Traveling around 44 miles, the tornado impacted parts of Adair and Adams counties.

How many people were killed in the Greenfield Iowa tornado? ›


The tornado, tentatively rated an EF-3, ripped through Greenfield and left damage throughout the city on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday evening, the Iowa Department of Public Safety released an official fatality count of four deaths.

What was the worst tornado death? ›

Deadliest single tornado in US history

The Tri-State tornado of March 18, 1925, killed 695 people in Missouri (11), Illinois (613), and Indiana (71). The outbreak it occurred with was also the deadliest known tornado outbreak, with a combined death toll of 747 across the Mississippi River Valley.

How many people died in the last EF5 tornado? ›

May 20, 2013 was a horrifying day.

That afternoon, a violent tornado raked through central Oklahoma from Newcastle to Moore to the southern side of Oklahoma City. This single tornado killed 24, injured 207 and was responsible for $2 billion in damage. It was also rated EF5.

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