Tornadoes cause destruction in Iowa as deadly storms race across state

A violent tornado tore through Carbon, Iowa, on Tuesday. Several wind turbines in Prescott, Iowa, were destroyed during a tornado. Widespread damage was also reported in Greenfield, Iowa. Local authorities reported at least five people were killed in the state.

GREENFIELD, Iowa – A series of large, violent tornadoes struck Iowa on Tuesday, causing significant destruction and fatalities in some rural communities and continuing a dayslong severe weather threat across the U.S.  

Several deaths were attributed to the severe weather outbreak centered southwest of the state capital of Des Moines, with the town of Greenfield hit particularly hard.

An Iowa resident is believed to have been killed as a supercell raced through Corning in Adams County. According to the local sheriff's office, the driver was blown off the roadway during a tornadic supercell.

At least four additional people were killed and 35 injured in the Greenfield area, according to state officials.


‘Most of this town is gone’

More than a dozen reports of tornadoes came in from western and central parts of Iowa on Tuesday.

Tornadoes were reported in Red Oak, Carbon, Corning and Greenfield, damaging power lines, wind turbines and homes. At least one wind turbine was on fire and propped against the ground in Prescott, Iowa, southwest of Des Moines.


The FOX Forecast Center spotted debris on radar from two twisters that impacted Carbon and Corning, and debris was being reported thrown at least 15 miles from a tornado that impacted Greenfield, Iowa.

Greenfield, located in Adair County, has a population of around 2,000 people and is at the heart of the county.

Video showed people searching through rubble from what was a large tornado.

Damage was significant on Greenfield's southern and eastern sides, around the region's medical center.


"Most of this town is gone … there's no other way to put it. Most of this town is gone," FOX Weather Exclusive Storm Tracker Brandon Copic said.

Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said search and rescue crews had checked all damaged areas for anyone trapped or missing.

"We do believe we have everybody accounted for," Dinkla said during a Tuesday evening news conference. "But we want to make sure with our search efforts — obviously this tornado has devastated a good portion of this town and community and with that much damage we want to make sure that we’re doing our due diligence to make sure that we cover that area extensively." reported more than half of Adair County was without power following the severe storms.


Roads into and out of Greenfield were blocked by first responders in the hours after the severe weather to keep nonresidents out of the community.

"It is almost impossible to make out what was a home, a building, a business, a car," said FOX Weather correspondent Nicole Valdes while reporting Wednesday morning. "Trees have stripped bare, and it almost looks like a massive pile of debris. But that was a community that was once whole that is now in ruins."

Portions of Iowa, northwestern Illinois, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin were placed under a "Particularly Dangerous Situation" Tornado Watch as rounds of powerful storms raced across the region. Less than 5% of all severe weather watches are given the Particularly Dangerous Situation tag, which signified forecasters' concerns about the outbreak.

Much of the Des Moines metro area were under a Tornado Warning on Tuesday afternoon. A wind gust of 71 mph was reported east of Des Moines at the Newton Municipal Airport.

Outside the severe storms, a Dust Storm Warning was issued for central Illinois due to reduced visibility around Champaign and Decatur.

‘I heard the train’

Valerie Warrior is a lifelong Iowa resident and said one of the first signs trouble was on the way to Greenfield on Tuesday was when she started receiving texts from her family members.

"So, I went downstairs, got my cat and I went into the furnace room. I was holding my cat for my whole life, and I was shaking, and I heard the train," Warrior told FOX Weather.

Warrior said the storm lasted only about a minute, but during that time period, windows broke, trees fell, and the small town was changed forever.

"There's houses down and flattened next to me and all over the place. My house got hurt. It got some damage to the roof, with the front porch, windows are out, and the back garage got a hole in the roof, but nothing compared to the devastation all over town," said Warrior.

The National Weather Service office in Des Moines will survey damage over the next couple of days to determine the strength of the twisters. Already, the NWS has said the Greenfield twister was an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

In the meantime, Iowans are coming together to help their neighbors in Greenfield.

"We live here in Iowa, and we’re going to make sure that we help out our neighbors," Dinkla said. "And so when a devastation like this comes, people from many communities will emerge on a community like this and just offer their assistance. That’s what we saw today. They’re here for one mission, and that is to help one another and that’s what we’re going to continue to do here in Iowa."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the number of tornado reports that were received Tuesday.