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Tornadoes Damage Three Central Iowa Communities, But No Serious Injuries Or Deaths Reported

Iowa Environmental Mesonet
A map from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet shows more than two dozen tornadoes and funnel clouds reported Thursday in central Iowa.

Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to visit the central Iowa cities of Bondurant, Pella, and Marshalltown Friday.  All three communities were hit by tornadoes late Thursday afternoon.  As of Thursday night, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported, but there was a lot of damage.

In Marshalltown, a large twister heavily damaged several buildings downtown, and knocked the spire off the county courthouse.  Also, the Lennox manufacturing plant was damaged, as were many other buildings in the area.

“I don’t know how we’re going to move forward from here,” Marhsalltown police captain Brian Batterson told reporters last night.   “We will, but I don’t think those steps have quite been figured out at this point because we still are in that still assessing what the damage is mode.”

Among the buildings damaged in the city was Unity Point Health.  About three dozen patients at the hospital were taken to facilities in Waterloo and Grundy Center because of damage to the building.  The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the Meskwaki Hotel and Casino in Tama.  Shuttles from Marshalltown were provided for people who needed them.

In Pella, a tornado hit the Vermeer manufacturing plant.  It was hosting several hundred people for a customer appreciation day at the time.  A several people were taken to the hospital for what are described as minor injuries.  Employee Navneet Mathur posted on the company’s Facebook page that everyone inside was rushed to a safe place until the storm passed, and he only realized the extent of the damage once he was able to step outside.

“It was like a movie set with nothing but destruction everywhere,” he wrote. “Cars piled up as if they were toys. Buildings damaged as if they were made of plastic!”

The storm also destroyed several homes in Bondurant.  Polk County Emergency Management had set up an assistance post by early evening to assist anyone needing help.

In an interview with WHO-TV in Des Moines last night, Gov. Reynolds said she was hearing a lot of relief and appreciation.

“Everyone that I talked to just continued to just say how lucky they are that at this point there haven’t been any fatalities,” she said.  “The fact that just the overwhelming response from the communities and businesses – HyVee, Fareway, water, trucks…communities and businesses stepping up.”

The National Weather Service will have survey teams in Polk, Jasper, Marion and Marshall Counties on Friday to learn more about the severity of the storms. 

Michael Leland is IPR's News Director