Midwest storms: Severe weather expected as Iowa cleans up from tornado damage

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Sky was blue and winds were howling as residents of the small Iowa town of Greenfield cleaned up after a devastating tornado two days ago that destroyed more than 100 homes in just one minute, killing four residents and injuring at least 35 others.

On Thursday, the miles-long stretch was filled with the deafening sounds of heavy machinery lifting away shattered homes, mangled vehicles and felled trees. But on either side of that path, beautiful homes and lawns seem untouched, and one might find it hard to believe that a tornado with winds of 175-185 mph (109-115 kph) devastated the community of 2,000 people.

A tornado-damaged car lies in a pile of debris in Greenfield, Iowa, on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

More severe weather was expected across the Midwest Thursday night into Friday, including a tornado that stayed on the ground for about an hour in southwestern Oklahoma and a possible tornado in areas of Iowa that were already damaged.

The devastation from Tuesday’s tornado in Greenfield was evident on the faces of people still struggling to comprehend how their homes and lives were destroyed — some in mourning, others grateful they survived.

Dean and Pam Wiggins were among those killed, their grandson Tom Wiggins said.

On Thursday, he tried to find any mementos of his grandparents after the storm destroyed their home, leaving nothing but the foundation of the house. He said they are “incredibly loved by not only our family but the whole town.”

Bill Yount was cleaning up not far away.

A storm-damaged truck sits on a lot in Greenfield, Iowa, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A storm-damaged truck sits on a lot in Greenfield, Iowa, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tom Wiggins sorts through debris at his grandparents' storm-damaged home, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tom Wiggins sorts through debris at his grandparents’ storm-damaged home, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“It looks like someone took a bomb to it,” Yunt said, pointing to the land — which was covered in logs, debris, trees devoid of leaves, heavy machinery and equipment to clean up the mess.

He was waiting out the storm in a closet.

“The roof lifted up and then it fell down and then all the windows blew out,” he said Thursday. The storm ripped out the garage of his home and damaged the inside walls. “Forty seconds changed my life a lot,” he said.

A black van was badly damaged and stuck between his house and a neighbor’s house.

“Nobody knows who it belongs to,” he said.

Sherry Beitz was outside cleaning up, and was glad her mother, Ginger Thompson, 79, survived even though she couldn’t go down to the basement of her home because she’s in a wheelchair.

“She was stuck for a while,” Beitz said. “It was a scary situation, but the main thing is she’s OK. House is replaceable.”

“You look around and are so grateful that the community didn’t lose as much as we did,” Beitz said.

Colton Newbury was working in Des Moines when the storm hit. He was about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from his wife and 10-month-old daughter in Greenfield.

He said he ran back and found his house was “a hole in the ground.” His wife had not heard the sirens. Newbury said his cousin ran outside to get his wife and child, and they survived the storm in the cousin’s basement. He said the winds blew away entire homes: “Almost every house on the block, just the foundations were left.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Thursday praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response as she sought to declare a disaster for several counties. After surveying Tuesday’s destruction, the National Weather Service determined that three separate powerful tornadoes carved a path totaling 130 miles (209.21 kilometers) across Iowa, according to Donna Dubberke, meteorologist in charge in Des Moines.

FEMA Administrator Dean Criswell said his agency will act on the request as quickly as possible to make resources available — which could include funding for temporary housing for homeless people.

Over 202 houses were destroyed destroyed by a series of storms Reynolds said Tuesday was the heaviest rainfall statewide, with most of it falling in Greenfield and surrounding areas. The count does not include businesses or other buildings that were destroyed or damaged, such as Greenfield’s 25-bed hospital.

Unsettled weather was expected to continue across the Midwest.

The National Weather Service said a tornado tore through southwestern Oklahoma for about an hour Thursday evening. Meteorologist Jennifer Thompson said some homes were reported damaged, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

Thompson said the service also received reports of very large hail — some were the size of baseballs — while flash flooding occurred after 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain fell along the storm’s path in a period of about three hours.

He said the weather service would have to investigate to determine how powerful the tornado was and its intensity on the ground.

The weather service’s Storm Prediction Center warned of an increased risk of severe storms for much of Nebraska and western Iowa from late Thursday night into Friday morning, including areas where tornadoes struck in Iowa and where stormy winds, large hail and torrential rain inundated streets and basements in Nebraska.

Andrew Ansorge, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Des Moines, warned that this latest round of severe weather — including possible tornadoes — will hit Iowa “while people are sleeping.”

“With the damage that’s already been done, it wouldn’t take a lot of wind to cause further damage to these homes,” Ansorge said. “It’s a bad deal all around.”

More severe weather could also hit storm-damaged parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas on Saturday and Sunday.

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Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth contributed from Mission, Kansas, and Amy Beth Hanson from Helena, Montana.



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