Multiple deaths, extensive damage after powerful tornado rips through Iowa: Updates (2024)

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of severe weather news for Tuesday, May 21. For the latest news on severe weather and tornadoes, view our live updates file for Wednesday, May. 22.

DES MOINES, Iowa —Multiple tornadoes struck Iowa on Tuesday, with one causing multiple deaths and at least a dozen injuries in a small town, after severe weather brought numerous rounds of rain and thunderstorms in the Plains and Midwest.

The tornado touched down in Greenfield, a town about 60 miles southwest of Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday afternoon. Iowa State Police confirmed that there were multiple deaths after the tornado almost completely flattened the town of more than 2,000, the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.

Sgt. Alex Dinkla, spokesperson with the Iowa State Patrol, said at a news conference Tuesday night that authorities were working to confirm the exact number of those killed or injured, but estimated at least a dozen people were hospitalized.

Several other tornadoes were reported to have touched down in Iowa on Tuesday, including a "large and dangerous" one near Fontanelle that was racing northeast at 60 mph, the National Weather Service said. The weather service is urging people in tornado-warned areas to take cover. "You are in a life-threatening situation," the weather service said.

Overall, more than 25 million people from Nebraska to Michigan live in the path of a powerful storm system and face a "probable" threat of tornadoes as well as heavy rain, hail and damaging winds, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

AccuWeather warned that areas between northern Missouri and southern Wisconsin are at high risk for severe thunderstorms into Tuesday night.

"We’re concerned about damaging winds and tornadoes. No weather event is the same, but this does have the same kind of earmarks as the severe weather threat back on April 26. There were more than 100 tornadoes reported that day,” AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

A tornado watch was issued Tuesday afternoon for much of eastern Nebraska and most of Iowa, along with portions of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. This means that weather conditions are prime for tornadoes to form there, the Storm Prediction Center said. Much of Iowa was under a "particularly dangerous situation" tornado watch, an alert used only in the most extreme situations.

Severe thunderstorms have prompted reports of road flooding in at least seven counties in Iowa Tuesday afternoon. The weather service received a report of 3.5 inches of rain in Mason City, Iowa, in Cerro Gordo County. Flooding also was reported in Bremer and Grundy counties.

The storm system was expected to reach peak intensity – with the formation of supercells, the most powerful thunderstorm type – in the afternoon and early evening as it reaches the Missouri and Mississippi valleys as well as the Lake Michigan area.

The latest wave of storms across the central U.S. over the weekend and early this week have spun up twisters and dropped damaging hail up to 2.5 inches in diameter. On Monday, possible tornadoes were reported in Colorado and Nebraska, though damage appeared to be limited. A day earlier, at least four people were injured in Oklahoma and dozens of buildings were damaged in storms that swept the Plains region.

Tornadoes track through Iowa amid powerful thunderstorms

Multiple rounds of thunderstorms spread across Iowa on Tuesday, resulting in a dangerous tornado outbreak. By Tuesday evening, residents in western and central Iowa communities were trying to clean up and assess the damage.

Drone footage on social media showed destroyed homes, flipped cars, uprooted trees and downed power lines in Greenfield. Local authorities have limited traffic in and out of Greenfield, according to former Iowa State Rep. Clel Baudler.

“Ambulances are running north and south like crazy,” Baudler said. “It’s all rescue and recovery right now.”

The Adair County Health System hospital was also damaged and the hospital has been evacuated, a MercyOne spokesperson told the Des Moines Register. Dinkla said patients who were already receiving treatment at the hospital were transported to other hospitals.

A curfew is in effect from 10 p.m. to at least 7 a.m. Wednesday in Greenfield, according to Dinkla.

Geoff Greenwood, a spokesperson for MidAmerican Energy, said Tuesday that the Des Moines utility was aware of several wind turbines "which took a direct hit by a large tornado" in Adair County and were damaged or destroyed.

Videos posted on social media showed a tornado striking one turbine after another, including one turbine near Prescott in Adams County falling to the ground on fire.

National Weather Service volunteer weather spotters across Iowa also reported infrastructure damages, high winds, and hail in other communities. Gov. Kim Reynolds has authorized a disaster emergency proclamation for 15 counties:Adair, Adams, Cass, Clay, Hardin, Harrison, Jasper, Kossuth, Marshall, Montgomery, Page, Palo Alto, Pottawattamie, Tama and Warren.

'House started popping'

Carl and Valerie Faust were in the path of the tornado and lost their home in Greenfield. After hearing the wind pick up and getting a call from their son, they went to their basem*nt.

"I got down five steps to the basem*nt, and the house started popping," Carl Faust said.

It took about 40 seconds from start to finish for the tornado to tear through not just their home, but the whole town, Carl Faust said. Their neighbors came to check on them soon after.

"We'll get up in the morning," he said. "We'll look it all over with a fresh mind and fresh eyes and we'll start attacking it all."

Tornadoes reported in Wisconsin as many counties remain under tornado watch

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power in central Wisconsin on Tuesday evening as a storm continued to track east across the state. Three rounds of storm systems passed through the state and brought damaging winds as high as 60 to 80 miles per hour.

Many Wisconsin counties remained under a tornado watch until midnight. The National Weather Service office in Green Bay said there were "reports of a tornado near Unity" in Clark and Marathon counties.

A tornado was confirmed shortly before 7:50 p.m. about 13 miles east of Abbotsford moving northeast at 80 mph, according to the weather service. Abbotsford is a city about 34 miles west of Wausau.

Elsewhere, the weather service office in Milwaukee said at about 7 p.m. that a "strong rotation" was seen on radar crossing the Wisconsin River near Spring Green.

Central US faces more severe weather this week

By Wednesday morning, the center of the system will head into southern Canada. However, a trailing cold front will "become nearly stationary across the southern Plains where the next phase of severe weather and excessive rainfall is forecast to emerge," the weather service warned, adding that the weather threats, including thunderstorms, will expand into the mid-Mississippi Valley on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, persistent storms capable of unleashing hail and "a couple of tornadoes" could lash Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of Texas, the weather service's Storm Prediction Center said. Isolated strong to severe thunderstorms will be possible across the central Plains into South Dakota and across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastal areas.

It's already been a rough spring for tornadoes: There have been more than 830 preliminary reports of tornadoes so far this year, well above the historical average of 626 tornadoes at this time of year, AccuWeather said.

Storm-related death toll rises to 8 in Houston

An eighth person has died following a series of storms that tore through the Houston area on Thursday, leaving widespread damage in its wake, including mass power outages amid an intense heat wave.

Officials discovered the body of a man they believe died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, multiple outlets reported, citing the Houston Fire Department.

Samuel Peña, the fire chief, took to X on Monday, calling carbon monoxide poisoning a "silent killer." He said his department has responded to 80 poisoning-related calls since last Thursday, including one in which four children were hospitalized because of a running generator, he said.

As authorities have been rushing to get the power back on across the city, many schools remain closed because of outages and damage. Officials also have warned against traveling because of debris from smashed windows downtown and damaged traffic lights.

Rising temperatures and record power use

Meanwhile, temperatures have risen sharply. Through Friday, the afternoon heat index, or feels like temperature, is forecast to reach triple digits, prompting a warning from weather and local authorities, according to the National Weather Service.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 136,000 utility customers still had no power, according to a USA TODAY outage tracker. That is down from over 946,000 customers without service in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on Friday.

Power use in Texas broke the record for the month of May on Monday and will likely top that high over the next week as homes and businesses keep their air conditioners cranked up to escape the spring heat wave.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said power demand hit a preliminary 72,261 megawatts on May 20, which topped the previous record for the month of May, 71,645 megawatts set in 2022.

US weather watches and warnings

National weather radar

Contributing: Victoria Reyna-Rodriguez, and Kate Kealey, Des Moines Register; David Clarey, Emmett Prosser, and Drake Bentley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Jamie Rokus, USA TODAY Network - Wisconsin; Reuters

Multiple deaths, extensive damage after powerful tornado rips through Iowa: Updates (2024)


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