Search and rescue underway after tornado slams Iowa; at least 1 dead

Authorities in Iowa were continuing search and rescue efforts Wednesday, a day after a deadly tornado slammed the state, killing at least one.

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office said a woman died Tuesday when her vehicle was blown off the road during the storms about three miles north of Corning, Iowa, or about 30 miles southwest of Greenfield, where the tornado left a wide swath of obliterated homes and crumpled cars.

The woman, whose name and age were not immediately released, was the only occupant in the vehicle. Officials did not release other figures of the dead and wounded.

The tornado that tore through Greenfield also twisted and toppled wind turbines outside of the town of 2,000 people.

After devastating Greenfield, the storms moved east into Illinois and Wisconsin, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers.

The U.S. is experiencing a historically bad season for tornadoes as climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world. April had the second highest number of tornadoes on record in the United States.

Through Tuesday, there have been 27% more tornadoes in the country than average. This year’s preliminary count of 859 is the highest since 2017 and is significantly more than the average of 676 through May 21, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. Nearly 700 of the tornadoes have been in April and May.

Iowa has had the most tornadoes this year with 81, followed by Texas with 74 and Kansas and Ohio each with 66.

Greenfield’s hospital was damaged, meaning that at least a dozen people who were injured had to be taken elsewhere, according to Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla.

“Sadly, we can confirm that there have been fatalities,” Dinkla said at a news conference Tuesday night, without specifying how many. “We’re still counting at this time.”

Dinkla said he thought they had accounted for all of the town’s residents but that searches would continue if anyone was reported missing. 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.

The tornado destroyed much of Greenfield, about 55 miles southwest of Des Moines, during a day that saw multiple tornadoes, giant hail and heavy rain in several states. The National Weather Service said it received 23 tornado reports Tuesday, with most in Iowa, and one each in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

On Facebook, people as far as 100 miles from Greenfield posted photos of ripped family photos, check stubs, damp yearbook pages and other items that the tornado carried from the town.

Authorities announced a mandatory curfew for Greenfield and said they would only allow residents to enter the town. They also ordered media representatives to leave the city Tuesday night.

In the aftermath of the storm, mounds of broken wood from homes, branches, car parts and other debris littered lots where homes once stood. Some trees still standing were stripped of limbs and leaves. Residents helped each other salvage furniture and other belongings that were strewn in every direction.

Rogue Paxton said he sheltered in the basement 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.”

A tornado also apparently took down several 250-foot wind turbines in southwest Iowa. Some of the turbines caught fire, sending plumes of smoke into the air.

Camille Blair said the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce office where she works closed around 2 p.m. ahead of the storm.

“I can see from my house it kind of went in a straight line down the road,” she said of the tornado.

Iowa had braced for severe weather after the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center gave most of the state a high chance of seeing severe thunderstorms with the potential for strong tornadoes. The storms and tornado warnings moved into Wisconsin on Tuesday evening and night.

Earlier in the day in Nebraska, residents to the west in Omaha awoke to sirens blaring and widespread power outages as torrential rain, high winds and large hail pummeled the area. The deluge flooded basements and submerged cars. Television station KETV showed firefighters rescuing people from vehicles.

In Illinois, dust storms led authorities to shut down stretches of two interstates due to low visibility.

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

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