4 dead, dozens injured in tornado that devastated Iowa town

Central Iowa was reeling Wednesday morning after what police described as a “devastating” tornado killed four people and laid waste to rural communities.

Iowa Department of Public Safety said four people died and 35 more were injured as a result of the tornado that tore through the town of Greenfield, a community of about 2,000 people 40 miles southwest of Des Moines, on Tuesday.

The names of the dead have not been publicly released, Iowa DPS said. The agency also said that the number of injured is likely higher, and that these numbers only reflect those treated at designated care sites.

Another person was killed in a weather-related car crash in nearby Adams County on Tuesday, police confirmed. The victim was named as Monica Zamarron, 46.

A state of emergency was declared in 17 counties on Wednesday night by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, after the declaration was made for 15 counties earlier Wednesday.

There were 18 tornado warnings across Iowa on Tuesday, as well as one each in Wisconsin and Minnesota, adding to an already exceptionally busy tornado season.

Sgt. Alex Dinkla said at a news conference that at least 12 people were treated in hospitals — although the town’s Adair County Memorial Hospital was also damaged, forcing first responders to take victims to facilities elsewhere.

Reynolds declined to release the number of people injured or killed, telling reporters at a Wednesday news conference that “it’s still a search and rescue and we don’t want to give out any misinformation.”

Joan Newell, 77, of Greenfield said the tornado sounded like a “train.”

“So I knew I needed to get to my basement,” she said.

Newell said she was trapped in her house for about 45 minutes before she was rescued. At one point, she could hear people outside but no one knew she was stuck.

“They didn’t think I was down there and I kept hollering, ‘I am here!’ But no one could hear me,” she said.

Her Apple watch eventually alerted 911 that she had fallen and was trapped.

Newell has lived in the area for decades and has experienced a tornado before. But this one was “10 times worse,” she said.

Maggie Masker’s home was ripped from its foundation. In the basement where her family would have sheltered in place had they been home during the tornado lay a pile of bricks.

Luckily, Masker was at work, her husband had gone to help at the fire department and her 2-year-old daughter was in daycare.

“Crazy to think about,” Masker said. “You just think like that’s where your safe spot is, and it’s not safe anymore. Never was.”

The risk of severe weather continues into Thursday for some 20 million people, from Memphis to New England.

Aerial footage from Greenfield, shot late Tuesday, showed entire streets that were in the path of the tornado turned to wreckage, with piles of debris among broken trees and demolished cars.

Tornado damage in Greenfield, Iowa, on Tuesday.Charlie Neibergall / AP

A man in nearby Red Oak, Montgomery County, captured footage of an enormous funnel cloud moving through the area as sirens wailed and intense rain fell.

The Montgomery County Emergency Management said in a statement that multiple confirmed tornadoes damaged at least 28 homes, with the damage ranging from “affected to destroyed.”

Wind turbines were left in ruin near Prescott, Iowa. And the wind was strong enough near the town of Nevada, Iowa, to topple a semitruck that had stopped on a highway because of the extreme conditions. There has been no report of related casualties.

East Iowa St. in Greenfield, Iowa, before and after the tornado.Google Maps; USA Today Network
The remains of a tornado-damaged wind turbine near Prescott, Iowa, on Tuesday.Charlie Neibergall / AP

The situation was so severe in Iowa that the weather service said it was deploying three teams from its Des Moines office to survey the tornado damage, with the results expected Wednesday night.

Elsewhere, in Colorado large hailstones stripped the cladding from buildings and shattered car windows — NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver reported that the hail was at times the size of a baseball.

In Omaha, Nebraska, cars were swept away by raging floodwaters caused by between 4 and 8 inches of rain, leaving some stranded.

A damaged car in Greenfield, Iowa, on Tuesday. Charlie Neibergall / AP

NBC affiliate WOWT of Omaha spoke to Mike Troy, a local man and school football coach, whose home was on a newly created island. The water was not considered deep enough to justify a rescue, he said.

Nearly 155,000 energy customers were without power in Texas as of 10:20 p.m. ET after a torrid few days of severe weather, according to the energy connection tracker PowerOutage.us, while 15,900 were also without power in Wisconsin.

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