Tornadoes rip through Iowa and cause 'catastrophic damage'

Cheryl Sanders
July 20, 2018

Sirens wail. The area is littered with overturned cars and twisted debris crumpled on top of each other after a tornado ripped through Pella, Iowa, one of several that tore through the state on Thursday.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but there were reports of several tornadoes in the area, about an hour northeast of Des Moines.

"A line of supercells along a cold front pushed eastward through central Iowa producing several tornadoes, including the strong tornado that hit portions of Bondurant and Pella", said meteorologist Jonathan Belles.

Tornadoes rip through Iowa and cause 'catastrophic damage'

Pella Regional Health Center spokeswoman Billie Rhamy confirmed Thursday evening injuries were minor and all patients had been discharged.

The KNIA/KRLS Severe Weather Action Team was on the air from 3:37 to 4:45 p.m., providing live coverage of multiple tornado warnings impacting northern Marion County and southern Jasper. Brick walls collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of the historic courthousetumbled 175 feet (53 meters) to the ground.

Viewer video showed a wild scene in Iowa on Thursday, as two possible tornadoes were captured on camera at the same time. The National Weather Service warned of "catastrophic damage," reporting that tops of buildings were gone.

She said other nearby buildings including The Orpheum, a theatre built in 1948, also are damaged.

Lt. Shane Cox with the Pella Police Dpartment says there were a number in the town that were sent to the hospital.

Authorities said a hospital was evacuated and there were some injuries from the storms, but no reports of deaths. Officials said everyone should stay off the streets unless they have an emergency.

The CEO of Racom said all operations are up and running, even though the building looks to be damaged.

Iowa State Rep. Mark Smith, who lives in Marshalltown, told Des Moines station KCCI-TV that the area likely will be declared a disaster area. The utility said crews have been dispatched to fix damage and assess which areas can have gas service safely restored. Smith said much of downtown was damaged. "It's just an absolute mess".

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