At least 7 fatalities in Iowa blamed on destructive EF3 tornado

·6 min read

Officials said at least seven people were killed in Iowa over the weekend due to an outbreak of severe weather that unleashed more than two dozen tornadoes, including one EF3 twister. By Monday morning, the weather pattern had shifted to a wintry one and residents in several of the hard-hit areas were dealing with fresh snowfall.

A confirmed tornado tore through the Des Moines area on Saturday as a potent storm system made its way through the Midwest. At least seven fatalities were reported between two Iowa counties after a large and damaging tornado caused significant damage to the towns of Winterset, Iowa, and Patterson, each located to the southwest of Des Moines, making this the deadliest tornado to hit Iowa since 2008, according to reporting from the Des Moines Register.

As of Sunday morning, preliminary results from Saturday night suggest that at least EF3 tornado damage had been caused by the deadly storm. This rating uses the Enhanced Fujita Scale for wind and indicates severe damage and wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph.

Diogenes Ayala, director of the emergency management agency in Madison County, where six of the reported fatalities occurred, estimated that at least 25 to 30 houses had been destroyed by the tornado.

After the severe weather system cleared out, winter weather quickly swept in behind it and from Sunday night into Monday morning, Des Moines picked up 5 inches of snow. Places surrounding Des Moines picked up anywhere from 3 to 5 inches of snow and temperatures were in the low 20s throughout much of the area early Monday.

The severe weather ramped up early Saturday afternoon. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a tornado watch for parts of Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa in preparation for the incoming severe weather. About an hour later, the first tornado warning of the day was issued in Iowa.

Damage in Avon, Iowa, after a tornadic storm hit the area. (AccuWeather)

Throughout the afternoon, several additional tornado warnings were issued in Iowa. Just after 4 p.m., local time, the NWS said a confirmed tornado was located near Corning, Iowa, and Prescott, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon.

Not long after that, a multi-vortex tornado was spotted in Patterson and Winterset, Iowa, before heading closer to the Des Moines area. A tornado warning was issued for Des Moines shortly after 4:30 p.m., local time, as the tornado approached closer to the city.

Structural damage was reported near Patterson as a result of the storm. Several trees were also down and there was damage to buildings.

Des Moines International Airport was in the path of the tornadic storm as it moved to the northeast, threatening air traffic and those inside the airport. As the dangers of the storm became clear, the airport decided to stop all air traffic and evacuate everyone to tornado shelters under the airport.

Just after 5 p.m., local time, the confirmed tornado was near the southernmost part of Des Moines. Possible damage associated with the tornado was spotted in Winterset, Iowa, by storm chasers in the area.

The tornadic storm crossing Interstate 35 near Cumming, Iowa, on March 5, 2022.

METAR data at KDSM (Des Moines Airport) recorded a "+FC" code, which means a funnel cloud was observed. This is only the third +FC code on record for KDSM, according to IEM.

As the tornadic system made its way through the Des Moines area, it also crossed Interstate 35, resulting in traffic cameras in the area capturing the storm coming through.

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In Norwalk, a town just south of Des Moines, tornado damage was reported by a KCCI news crew in the area. Several homes were damaged and power lines were down after the storm came through in Avon, a small town south of Des Moines.

The tornado continued to move to the northeast, putting more of the Des Moines area at risk of the destruction caused by the storm. When the storm approached the northeast side of Des Moines, the tornado crossed highway 117 in Colfax, which is just northeast of Des Moines, according to a CBS 2 Cedar Rapids reporter.

After impacting downtown and southern Des Moines, the tornado headed toward the northwest side of Newton, Iowa. While the storm was crossing Interstate 80, a semi-truck flipped over just west of Newton as the tornado-warned cell moved through.

At 10:45 p.m. CST on Saturday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation following the impactful weather that swept through the region, according to the Des Moines Register. The announcement came after the severe storms turned deadly and 6 fatalities were reported in Madison County, Iowa, including 2 children.

Another fatality was reported in Chariton, Iowa, located in Lucas County, according to a local report.

As of early Sunday morning, there were a total of 42 preliminary tornado reports, largely sent in from Iowa. Damage reports began to flood in with some reports citing snapped trees, downed power lines and extensive barn and home damage.

Even during the early morning hours on Sunday, tornado warnings were still being issued across central Indiana as storms rolled eastward.

Power outages across Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana added up to more than 70,000 early Sunday morning as a result of the storms and damaging winds shifting through the region, according to poweroutage.us. Power was gradually restored to residents across Iowa throughout the night and outages declined to about Saturday evening to just above 2,000 by early Sunday morning.

Storm surveys were being conducted across the region throughout the day on Sunday by the Des Moines National Weather Service Office. Locations in Iowa being surveyed include Winterset, Norwalk and Chariton.

On Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service confirmed another tornado had touched down in Iowa on Saturday. An EF1 tornado with a path length of 8.4 miles tore through Benton County, Iowa, for about 11 minutes on Saturday evening. The tornado started about 3 miles east of Garrison, Iowa, and dissipated about 2 miles south-southwest of Cheney, Iowa. Maximum winds were estimated to be around 110 mph, putting it as a strong EF-1 tornado.

At least one tornado injured five people and damaged two homes and several trees east of Zion, Arkansas, on Sunday at around 8:15 p.m., and structures were also reported damaged north of Dover, Arkansas. At least two people were reported injured from this tornado that also damaged the Martin Township fire station. Power outages occurred in the Theodosia, Missouri, area on Sunday not long after. Minor injuries were reported in Izard County, Arkansas, as well after a home was completely destroyed.

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