Archive for Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iowa, Minnesota towns measure loss after tornadoes

A tree sits uprooted on the front lawn of a damaged house Monday in Parkersburg, Iowa, a day after a tornado struck the town.

A tree sits uprooted on the front lawn of a damaged house Monday in Parkersburg, Iowa, a day after a tornado struck the town.

May 27, 2008


— Half of this small town lay in ruins or heavily damaged Monday following a deadly tornado that ripped apart a stretch of northern Iowa.

The Sunday afternoon twister killed six people in Iowa, four of them in Parkersburg and two others in nearby New Hartford. In neighboring Minnesota, a child was killed by violent weather in a suburb of St. Paul.

"You really are overwhelmed when you see it," Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said at a news conference Monday after touring the Parkersburg area. "You can't imagine this kind of devastation, homes completely gone. And to see people trying to sort through their belongings is very difficult."

Rescuers continued picking through the wreckage in search of possible victims, but officials said they were hopeful no one else remained to be found.

In addition to those killed, about 70 people were injured, two of them in critical condition.

Officials counted 222 homes destroyed, 21 businesses destroyed and more than 400 homes damaged. Among the buildings destroyed were city hall, the high school and the town's sole grocery store and gas station.

That's about half of the homes in Parkersburg destroyed or severely damaged, said Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson.

"There's so much hurt here, I don't know where to start," said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who owns a farm near New Hartford.

Warning sirens sounded early enough to give residents time to seek shelter, Parkersburg Mayor Bob Haylock said.

"Without that, we would have a tremendous amount of injuries and loss of life," Haylock said. "People were down in their basements and waiting it out."

However, Haylock said most of those killed in Parkersburg were in basements. All were adults, he said.

Diane Goodrich rode out the storm in her basement with her husband and three neighbors.

"The noise was just unbelievable," Goodrich said Monday as she searched through the ruins of her home. "Our ears were popping. We could hear trees flying over us. We could hear every piece of furniture that left the house."

The number killed initially was reported as seven but was dropped to six Monday after a better accounting of residents, said Bret Voorhees, bureau chief of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The storm struck just after 5 p.m. Sunday, following an east-to-west path just a few miles north of the Waterloo area. It hit Parkersburg, New Hartford and then Dunkerton, about 50 miles east of Parkersburg. About 80 miles to the southwest, the Des Moines area had heavy rain and wind that gusted to 70 mph.

Culver issued a disaster proclamation for Black Hawk, Buchanan, Delaware and Butler counties.

North of St. Paul, Minn., the tornado that struck the town of Hugo on Sunday killed 2-year-old Nathaniel Prindle and injured his young sister, Washington County officials said. The boy's father and his 4-year-old sister were hospitalized in stable condition, and his mother was released after treatment, authorities said.

Hugo resident Marvin Miller found Nathaniel's parents, his neighbors, trapped in the debris of their home.

"They just kept screaming 'My children, my children!' Miller said Monday.

The National Weather Service confirmed Monday that the storm was a tornado.


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