Iowa Tornado Death Toll Reaches 5 | (2024)

Iowa Tornado Death Toll Reaches 5 | (1)

At a Glance

  • Five people have died and at least 35 are hurt.
  • Four of the deaths are in the hard-hit community of Greenfield, Iowa.
  • The National Weather Service says it found EF4 damage in Greenfield.

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At least four people were killed when a tornado ripped through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday.

The grim news was announced by the Iowa Department of Public Safety Wednesday night, more than 24 hours after the tornado ripped apart homes and left many survivors with nothing.

At least 35 people were known to be injured, but officials said that number is likely higher.

T​hursday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Des Moines said its survey teams had found EF4-level damage in Greenfield, and peak winds reached 175-185 mph.

One person was previously confirmed dead near the town of Corning, about 30 miles southwest of Greenfield. The woman was killed when her vehicle was blown off the road.

Greenfield was one of the hardest-hit communities as severe weather ripped across the region Tuesday, with much of the town of 2,000 people destroyed. Greenfield is about 50 miles southwest of Des Moines.

Other parts of Iowa also saw damage, as well as portions of Illinois and Wisconsin.

T​he storms were part of a severe outbreak that started Sunday and have spun up at least three dozen confirmed tornadoes and nearly 700 reports of high wind.

W​ednesday, storms caused damage in Temple, Texas.

And it's not over yet. Multiple rounds of severe weather are expected to continue through the Memorial Day weekend. Click here for the full forecast.

H​ere are our live updates as the emergency response continued Wednesday:

(​6:03 p.m. ET) A Straight-Line Path Of Destruction

F​rom senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman:

This aerial shows the contrast between total devastation on the south and east sides of Greenfield, Iowa, and areas of town that saw little or no damage.

We saw a similar thing in the Barnsdall, Oklahoma, EF4 tornado earlier this month, which coincidentally also raked through that city's south and east sides.

This also proves that a tornado doesn't necessarily have to be "large" to be destructive.

Click through our full slideshow to see more photos.

(​5:01 p.m. ET) Heads Up - Here's Where Severe Weather Is Headed Next

F​rom digital meteorologist Jonathan Belles:

In large contrast to recent days, clusters of storms are moving through the South largely without tornadic activity. A frontal boundary is draped from Texas to the Northeast and along it, we'll expect bouts of damaging wind gusts and hail, especially from Texas to Tennessee, through the overnight hours. Spotty flooding and a tornado or two are also possible in these storms.

In large part, the U.S. will take a short break from severe weather through much of the day on Wednesday, but emphasis on the short here. By sundown late Wednesday, a line of thunderstorms will likely take aim at Nebraska and Kansas with the potential for damage once again. Storms will be once again with us for the holiday weekend.

(​4:13 p.m. ET) Repairs To Local Hospital Could Take Months

A​dair County Health System's hospital in Greenfield, Iowa, could be under repairs for months after the storms there Tuesday.

"Despite damage to our hospital, our providers and nurses continued to care for and evacuate patients as well as support co-workers who had injured loved ones and home lost," reads a social media update from the hospital.

"Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, homes, and businesses."

F​or now, an emergency site for people with immediate needs is set up at a nearby high school.

(​3:41 p.m. ET) May Is The Most Active Month For Tornadoes

T​his week's round of severe weather is the latest in a series of deadly and destructive storms that have pummeled parts of the Plains, Midwest and other areas. That's no surprise.

M​ay averaged 278 tornadoes annually over a 20-year-period ending in 2022, according to a recent report from senior meteorologist Chris Dolce. That's more than any other month during that time period.

"I​t's not just the number of tornadoes, but also the intensity of them that makes May a dangerous month," Dolce wrote. "May, along with April, is in the heart of spring when violent tornadoes (EF4 to EF5 damage) are more likely than any time of year."

C​lick here to read more.

(​2:26 p.m. ET) 'I Thought I Was Going To Die There'

G​reenfield resident Luke Daughenbaugh was outside and trying to reach his son when the tornado hit.

“It put me on the ground and then I just curled up in like (a) fetal position. And pretty soon the garage walls were on top of me," Daughenbaugh told the Des Moines Register earlier today. "I was getting more pressure and pressure and pressure on me - I thought I was going to die there.”

W​hen it was over, about 10 people ran to help dig him out of a pile of debris.

“There was some good neighbors. It was wild. I would never have imagined that would have happened," Daughenbaugh said.


“I was crushed pretty good. I’m lucky to be here."

H​is son, who sheltered in a basem*nt, was also OK.

Iowa Tornado Death Toll Reaches 5 | (3)

(​2:08 p.m. ET) Please, Don't Call Unless You Really Need Us

R​esidents in Greenfield are requesting that family and friends not call their cell phones unless it's an emergency, according to a list of announcements compiled by the Adair County Free Press.

"With no power, their phones are dying and they are trying to preserve battery life," reads the announcement, posted on social media.

(1:22 p.m. ET) Initial Survey Results Come In From Greenfield

From the National Weather Service in Des Moines: Initial storm surveys have confirmed at least EF3 damage in Greenfield, Iowa. Additional damage evaluation will continue over the next several days and results are subject to change. Additional tornado paths and ratings will be added as data continues to be collected.

(​1:17 p.m. ET) Iowa Governor Surveys Damage

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds was in the town of Greenfield for a media briefing and to survey damage caused by the storms. Photos were shared to Governor Reynolds’ social media.

(​12:25 p.m. ET) Photos Show Heartbreaking Devastation

I​mages from the town of Greenfield show mangled vehicles, homes and trees, surrounded by every kind of debris. Click through our full slideshow to see more.

Iowa Tornado Death Toll Reaches 5 | (4)

(12:17 p.m. ET) Remaining School Days Canceled To Use School As Shelter

In a Wednesday press conference, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds shared that, as a result of the disaster proclamation, school is “officially over” for the school year as emergency responders use school facilities as a makeshift hospital and shelter.

“The shelter will continue to be at the high school because we were able to with the disaster proclamation that provides the director of the Department of Education ... the ability to waive school days,” Reynolds said. “She’s waived the last four days of school, so school is officially over and they’ll be able to continue to use the high school as a shelter.”

(11:46 a.m. ET) Bank Machine No Match For Powerful Tornado

In a destroyed area of Greenfield, Iowa, a lone ATM machine stands amid the debris of a brick building.

(11:34 a.m. ET) Damaging Severe Weather Continues

Fresh damage reports are coming in from eastern Oklahoma, where severe weather moved through this morning.

At least one home was hit in the community of Quinton, about 70 miles southeast of Tulsa. There are also reports of golf-ball sized hail in the southern Oklahoma community of Pontotoc.

Earlier, quarter-size hail fell earlier on Ft. Sill, a U.S. Army base near Lawton.

(11:15 a.m. ET) National Guard Official Shares Aerial Video

Iowa National Guard Public Affairs Director Jackie Schmillen shared aerial footage showing damage in Greenfield. In the video you can see that some buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed while other nearby buildings remained at least partially intact.

(9:55 a.m. ET) How Meteorologists Detect, Warn About Tornadoes

Greenfield had 46 minutes of lead time from the first tornado warning to when the tornado hit. But, how do meteorologists know when to “sound the alarm” both figuratively and literally in the case of places with storm sirens. Senior Meteorologist Jonathan Erdman explains:

"Doppler radar has been used by National Weather Service meteorologists since the 1990s to show not just areas of rain, but also the motion of precipitation within thunderstorms. When areas of rotation in thunderstorms are strong and persistent enough, they issue a tornado warning.

But given a radar beam shoots above the horizon, that rotation is often detected aloft, but may not necessarily be a tornado.

In the early 2010s, NWS Doppler radars were upgraded with dual-polarization technology. Among other benefits, it detects debris lofted by tornadoes, known as a tornadic debris signature (TDS). This allows meteorologists to confirm a tornado is in progress, even if there aren't spotters and it's at night with poor visibility.

In Tuesday's case, the rotation aloft was very strong, and lofted tornado debris was detected by radar up to 40,000 feet above the ground, both indicative of an intense tornado.

And even before the TDS appeared on radar, given the volatile mix of weather ingredients in place, NWS-Des Moines quickly issued tornado warnings for areas of rotation detected. They issued such a tornado warning six minutes before they confirmed it on radar."

(9:45 a.m. ET) Rehabilitation, Assisted Living Community Affected

The Greenfield Rehabilitation & Health Care Center reported that their facilities were impacted by the recent storms. Residents of the community were safely evacuated and transferred to other locations. However, the path forward is unclear as officials for the center assess the situation. Those with specific questions or concerns were directed to contact the Administrator, Jacqueline Welchans, at (712) 350- 0076.

(9:30 a.m. ET) Wind Not From Tornadoes Also Caused Damage

Tornadoes weren’t the only damaging element of the recent severe storms. Damaging straight-line winds were also a factor in some places. A personal weather station in eastern Iowa recorded a wind gust of 100 mph and several other locations saw gusts reaching 70 mph.

(9:00 a.m. ET) Iowa Seniors To Miss Out On Award Ceremony Due To Damage

In a social media post, Johnston High School in Polk County, Iowa, announced the postponing of their senior awards night saying, “But we will get your awards and cords to you before graduation!” The awards ceremony is set to be rescheduled. General school sessions were also canceled for Wednesday. Staff were asked to remain away from the building. The damage is being described as “extensive.” Students in the Johnston Community School District were released early on Tuesday before the storms hit the school.

(8:30 a.m. ET) 'We're A Small Community, We're A Tough Community’

The damage in the Midwest will require a long time to recover from. But, some residents are remaining hopeful despite the challenges ahead. In reporting from Des Moines news outlet KCCI, Fontanelle resident Donnell Griffith said, “We're a small community, we're a tough community ... We will rebuild this community together. We're small but we're mighty." Griffith’s husband owns Griff’s Garage, a business in Greenfield that was destroyed by the storms. Video shows that the building was leveled, fortunately without Griffith’s husband inside.

(8:00 a.m. ET) Additional Resources For Greenfield

Greenfield Chamber Main Street & Community Development shared a number of resources for Iowans who have either been affected by the recent storms or wish to help those affected. Both local banks in Greenfield, First National Bank and Union State, are accepting donations. Those wishing to donate directly to tornado recovery efforts should use the “other” option and manually enter “tornado recovery” on the donation submission form. Those who wish to help and have the credentials to do so can report to the Department of Transportation Building on Highway 92 where a command post has been set up.

(7:15 a.m. ET) Could Be Days Before Power Is Fully Restored

Power restorations are in progress as more than 80,000 homes and businesses remain without power in the Midwest according to According to local outlet WMTV, Madison Gas and Electric has told customers to “be patient” while restoration is ongoing. Utility company Commonwealth Edison Company in Illinois says they restore service to critical services and infrastructure first adding that, “This process may take several hours or days depending on the size of the storm.”

(6:35 a.m. ET) More Severe Weather To Come

As communities work to rebuild, there is a chance for more severe weather to hit the nation in the days to come, bringing the likelihood of large hail, wind damage and even more tornadoes. The severe threat is expected to stretch across parts of the Plains, Midwest and South through the holiday weekend.

(6:10 a.m. ET) Preliminary Storm Surveys Scheduled For Today

The National Weather Service office in Des Moines announced they will be conducting several storm surveys today including the hard-hit Greenfield and Corning areas. The agency expects a preliminary report to be available later today.

(5:30 a.m. ET) Communities Spring To Action

In an impressive display of community spirit, residents have begun helping one another salvage what remains of their belongings. A triage center has been set up at the Greenfield high school to assist those needing medical attention. The Adair County Health System is actively coordinating these efforts.

(5:15 a.m. ET) Injuries, Deaths Confirmed

Sergeant Alex Dinkla of the Iowa State Patrol confirmed fatalities from the tornado to the Associated Press although the exact number is still being determined. At least a dozen injured individuals were transported to a neighboring facility after the hospital in town was damaged by the storms.

(5 a.m. ET) Greenfield Remains In A State Of Emergency

Officials from the city of Greenfield, Iowa, announced a mandatory curfew for the town, adding that residents would only be allowed to enter Greenfield until Wednesday morning. Media personnel were told to leave Tuesday night.

To read all the developments as they played out yesterday, read this page.

Iowa Tornado Death Toll Reaches 5 | (2024)
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