Sudden Twisters Rip Through Iowa: Major Damage and Some Injuries
DES MOINES, IA – July 20, 2018
A series of tornadoes swept through central Iowa on Thursday, leaving behind at least 17 people injured, flattening buildings in three cities and forcing the evacuation of a hospital. The historic Marshall County Courthouse and Pella's agricultural machinery plant were hit by tornadoes. Marshalltown officials have reportedly declared a state of emergency.
The tornadoes hit Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant as surprised residents ran for cover. The storms injured 10 people in Marshalltown and seven at a factory near Pella, but no deaths were reported.
Marshalltown , a city of 27,000 people about 50 miles northeast of Des Moines, appeared to have been hit the hardest.
The only hospital in Marshalltown, UnityPoint Health, was damaged, spokeswoman Amy Varcoe said. All 40 of the patients at UnityPoint Health were being transferred to the health system's larger hospital in Waterloo as well as one in Grundy Center, she said.
The Marshalltown hospital's emergency room remained open to treat patients injured in the storm, Varcoe said. Ten people injured in the storm had been treated by 7 p.m. Thursday. She did not know how serious those patients' injuries were.
Weather forecasters said the tornadoes formed suddenly and took them by surprise.
Additional funnels were reported as the storm moved east of Des Moines past Altoona, Prairie City and Colfax.
National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said two primary storms spawned the series of damaging tornadoes. One developed in the Marshalltown area, causing damage there, while the other started east of Des Moines and travelled through Bondurant and into Pella.
Another tornado hit agricultural machinery maker Vermeer Manufacturing, where some people were still working, in the town of Pella, about 40 miles southeast of Des Moines. It scattered huge sheets of metal through a parking lot and left one building with a huge hole in it.
Pella Regional Health Center spokeswoman Billie Rhamy said seven people injured at the Vermeer plant were treated at the hospital. All had minor injuries and were released after treatment, Rhamy said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said two primary storms spawned the series of damaging tornadoes. One developed in the Marshalltown area, causing damage there, while the other started east of Des Moines and traveled through Bondurant and into Pella.
The exact number of tornadoes and their strength will be determined after further analysis.