Tornado devastates Iowa town, killing multiple people as powerful storms rip through Midwest (2024)

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.

The tornado destroyed much of Greenfield, a town of about 2,000 around 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines, during a day that saw multiple tornadoes, giant hail and heavy rain in several states.

“We do have confirmed fatalities,” Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said at a news conference Tuesday night. He said authorities were still determining the total number but thought they had accounted for all of the town’s residents.

Dinkla said there were at least a dozen injuries amid widespread devastation in Greenfield, including at the community’s small hospital. Patients there had to be transferred to other facilities in nearby cities.

The Adair County Health System said in a Facebook post Tuesday night that it had set up a triage center at the Greenfield high school and that people who need medical attention should go there.

Authorities said they would only allow residents to enter Greenfield until Wednesday morning and ordered media representatives to leave the city Tuesday night.

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-meter) wind turbines in southwest Iowa. Some of the turbines caught fire, sending plumes of smoke into the air and continued to smolder hours later.

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 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.

The storms and tornado warnings moved into Wisconsin Tuesday evening and night, including a warning for the state’s capital city of Madison.

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 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 (15.24-centimeter) 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.


This story has been updated to correct the conversion of a half-foot depth of hail to 15.24 centimeters, not 1.83 meters.


McFetridge reported from Des Moines, Iowa, and Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Josh Funk in Omaha, Colleen Slevin in Denver and Juan Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.

Tornado devastates Iowa town, killing multiple people as powerful storms rip through Midwest (2024)


Tornado devastates Iowa town, killing multiple people as powerful storms rip through Midwest? ›

The tornado destroyed much of Greenfield, a town of about 2,000 around 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines, during a day that saw multiple tornadoes, giant hail and heavy rain in several states. “We do have confirmed fatalities,” Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said at a news conference Tuesday night.

How many people died in the Iowa tornado? ›

Five dead in Iowa as storms batter Midwest. Five people were killed after as tornadoes ripped through a small Iowa town and nearby areas during powerful storms across the Midwest. Homes and businesses in Greenfield were destroyed, cars smashed and debris strewn across the landscape during the Tuesday storms.

How many died in the Greenfield Iowa tornado? ›

Two of the four people killed in the deadly Greenfield tornado have been identified. Dean Wiggins, 78, and Pam Wiggins, 77, both of Greenfield, died from the storm, according to their son Todd Wiggins.

Where did the tornado hit in Iowa? ›

Iowa Department of Public Safety said four people died and 35 more were injured as a result of the tornado that tore through the town of Greenfield, a community of about 2,000 people 40 miles southwest of Des Moines, on Tuesday.

Was there a tornado in Iowa in the 1960s? ›

During the late afternoon and early evening of May 15, 1968, five tornadoes (two F1s, one F2, and two F5s) occurred in Iowa. These tornadoes were part of a widespread outbreak (39 tornadoes) which impacted ten states. In Iowa, the tornadoes caused 18 fatalities and 619 injuries.

What's the worst tornado in US history? ›

This article lists various tornado records. The most "extreme" tornado in recorded history was the Tri-State tornado, which spread through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925.

Who has the worst tornadoes in the world? ›

The deadliest tornado in recorded history is considered to be the one that struck Bangladesh on April 26, 1989.

How many tornadoes in 2024 in Iowa? ›

Iowa's seen 86 tornadoes so far in 2024.

What tornado destroyed the most? ›

1. The Tri-State Tornado. On March 18, 1925, the deadliest single tornado in the history of the United States occurred.

What tornado causes the most deaths? ›

The great Tri-State tornado of 1925, the deadliest tornado ever recorded, crossed both the Mississippi and Wabash Rivers.

What is the coldest month in Iowa? ›

During January, the coldest month, temperatures range from morning lows of 4°F and afternoon highs of 22°F in the northwest corner of Iowa up to lows of 15°F and highs of 32°F in the southeast.

What states do not get tornadoes? ›

What states don't have tornadoes? Alaska, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. rarely see tornadoes — they averaged zero tornadoes annually over the last 25 years, according to our analysis of NOAA data.

Which state is hit with the most tornadoes? ›

At a Glance
  • Texas and Kansas average the most tornadoes each year.
  • Other parts of the Plains, South and Midwest also have a high number of tornadoes annually.
  • The Northeast and West have the lowest number of annual tornadoes.
Apr 26, 2024

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.

Is Iowa a good place to live? ›

With its wide-open spaces, friendly communities, and unique cuisine, Iowa offers a lifestyle that is both peaceful and enriching. The state is filled with natural beauty, from its rolling hills and expansive prairies to its picturesque rivers and lakes.

Has Iowa had an F5 tornado? ›

Since 1950, the United States has experienced fifty-three F5/EF5 tornadoes. Six of these tornadoes have occurred in Iowa. This ties Kansas and Texas for the greatest total of F5/EF5 tornadoes.

What tornado had the most deaths? ›

1. The Tri-State Tornado. On March 18, 1925, the deadliest single tornado in the history of the United States occurred. The enormous storm affected people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, hence the name.

How many people were killed in Greenfield, Iowa? ›

GREENFIELD, Iowa -- A deadly tornado that wreaked havoc in the small city of Greenfield, Iowa, left four people dead and nearly three dozen injured, officials said, while a fifth person was killed elsewhere.

How many people died in the 1953 tornado? ›

In all, there were 523 tornado-related fatalities in the US alone in 1953, the most since 1925. This high a death toll would not be repeated until 2011. There were 5,131 injuries recorded throughout the year as well.

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