DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke to the media on Sunday after surveying damage in Winterset in Madison County caused by an EF-3 tornado as severe storms producing additional tornadoes raced across central and southern Iowa late Saturday afternoon.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines said there were three thunderstorms that produced tornados with an unknown number of tornadoes touching down. There were seven confirmed fatalities and seven confirmed injuries.
“Devasting, it was unimaginable the destruction that we were able to witness on a brief tour that we just went through,” Reynolds said. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones and those who were impacted by the storm.”
She said she had been able to speak with some of the family members who lost loved ones in the storm.
The tornado that touched down in Winterset stayed on the ground heading northeast to Newton in Jasper County. After a primary survey of several sites in the tornado’s 69.5 mile path, the National Weather Service found the storm’s peak intensity of 170 mph with a EF4 rating. They said this is the first EF4 tornado in Iowa since October 4, 2013 that tore through Woodbury and Cherokee counties. The National Weather Service also said this is the second longest tornado path in Iowa since 1980. The longest occurred on June 7, 1984, with a path length of 117 miles in southern Iowa.
Six of the seven fatalities were a result of that storm. Those who died near Winterset are Melissa Bazley, 63, Rodney Clark, 64, Cecilia Lloyd, 72, Michael Bolger, 37, Kenley Bolger, 5, and Owen Bolger, 2. The fatalities spanned three residences, with the Bazley residence tragically experiencing four deaths – a father, two children, and a grandmother as the Bolgers were visiting from Missouri. Michael Bolger’s other daughter, Kuri, survived suffering serious injuries. Bazley’s husband and an adult son also survived.
During the tour, Reynolds said she saw hundreds of volunteers from all across the state.
“The minute it was light and they could start helping. It’s just unbelievable. I tried to walk through and thank them for being there. And over and over, the response was, “We’re Iowans, and that’s what we do. We show up, we take care of our family, we take care of our neighbors, and we take care of our community.'”
“I’m proud of Iowans in the way that they always step up and respond. And I’m so proud of the local leaders and the coordination that takes place every time we have an emergency disaster like this,” she added.
Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said that the tornado spanned over 13.7 miles and damaged 52 homes.
Drone video from Madison County this morning showing the endless tornado damage. pic.twitter.com/vfAhTehRsQ
— Jeriann Ritter (@JeriannWX) March 6, 2022
“I cannot express the heroism of the first responders that were out there last night from across the state that worked tirelessly to make sure that every single person that we thought what was missing was accounted for, and worked to really make sure that we can get up this morning to do the exact same thing again,” he said.
Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation on Saturday night for Madison County. The proclamation opened up state resources to be utilized in Madison County to assist with response and recovery efforts.
She said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas had called her to let her know his team and FEMA were available to respond to the state’s needs.
Ayala said the Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter at Newbridge Church in Winterset.
Those who would like to volunteer or donate items are encouraged to call the Madison County Chamber of Commerce at 515-462-1185.
— Taylor Kanost (@WxKanost) March 7, 2022
A second tornado ripped through Chariton and Red Haw State Park, causing one confirmed fatality and one injury at a campground at the state park. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said the person who died was caught in an RV during the storm. At the time of publication, the victim had not yet been identified.
The park is closed with extensive damage to the campground, beach, and boat docks. The DNR asks the public to stay away from the area.
— Mike Borland (@MikeB_WHO13) March 6, 2022
Country Cabins Motel and the Soda Pop Saloon in Chariton were also hit. The National Weather Service said that tornado was an EF-3 reaching up to 138 MPH at its peak intensity. Its path length reached 16.5 miles, and it was on the ground for 24 minutes.
A third confirmed tornado that touched down near Allerton and Corydon was on the ground for 10 minutes, traveling 7.5 miles, and was classified as an EF-2 by the National Weather Service with winds reaching 118 mph.
A fourth confirmed tornado touched down near Garden Grove and Humeston. It was on the ground for 27 minutes traveling 19.1 miles. The National Weather Service classified that tornado as an EF-2 with peak winds reaching 122 mph.
Easily the strongest tornado I've ever chased crossed the road just a few minutes ago east of Derby, IA. We're fine and so are the folks who got hit. For media use, contact Severe Weather Live.#WxTwitter #IAWX #Tornadoes @NWSDesMoines pic.twitter.com/nN9dDorqMP
— 𝕋𝕒𝕪𝕝𝕠𝕣 𝔹𝕝𝕠𝕪𝕕 (@hippiestrmchsr) March 6, 2022
There was tornado damage from the tornado originating near Winterset in Norwalk in Warren County and unincorporated southeast Polk County along Vandalia Road by Yellow Banks Park northwest of Runnells. The Red Cross set up a staging area at Four Mile Elementary School.
Tornado shredded trees and homes along Vandalia Road in Runnells. pic.twitter.com/HRR6gKNXzw
— Megan Salois (@WXMegs) March 6, 2022
Residents of counties impacted by the recent severe weather are asked to report damage to help local and state officials better understand the damage sustained. Damage to property, roads, utilities and other storm-related information may be reported. This information will be collected by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and shared with local emergency management agencies. Damage may be reported at www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov.