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Cleanup in Winterset continues following EF3 tornado that claimed six lives

Volunteers clear debris from Tony Wenck’s home in Winterset, Iowa. All that is left from where the house stood is the basement and foundation.
Grant Gerlock
/
IPR
Volunteers clear debris from Tony Wenck’s home in Winterset. All that is left from where the house once stood is the basement and foundation.

Volunteer crews worked in the Winterset area throughout the day Sunday helping to clean up from Saturday’s storms, filling dump trucks with debris left behind after a deadly EF3 tornado tore through the area.

Wind speeds in the tornado that hit the community were estimated to have reached up to 165 miles per hour. The result was a nearly 14-mile path of snapped trees and power lines, leveled homes and scattered debris.

More than 50 homes were estimated to be damaged or destroyed in the Winterset area. In the hardest-hit neighborhood, just south of the town of around 5,300, excavators and skid loaders filled one dump truck after another with trees, limbs and debris from houses demolished by the storm.

Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said the EF3 tornado that hit Winterset had wind speeds estimated to reach up to 165 miles per hour.
Grant Gerlock
/
IPR
Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said the EF3 tornado that hit Winterset had wind speeds estimated to reach up to 165 miles per hour.

Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said that after the storm went through, the roads to that neighborhood were blocked by trees.

“Despite that, we still got our vehicles through a very small gap, again this is with debris and trees and everything around, just to go out there to start search and rescue and to get people that were affected out of there,” Ayala said at a press conference in the Winterset fire station.

Ayala said others who are interested in volunteering in the cleanup efforts can contact the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

He also announced the names of the six people who died in Saturday’s tornado in Winterset. Rodney Clark, 64; Cecilia Lloyd, 72; Kinlee Bolger, 5; her brother Owen Bolger, 2; their father Michael Bolger, 37; and grandmother Melissa Bazley, 63.

A seventh person who died as a result of another tornado that touched down in Lucas County Saturday has not yet been identified publicly.

Ayala thanked emergency crews from across the state who helped responders in Winterset manage the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“I cannot express the heroism of the first responders that were out there last night from across the state that worked tirelessly to make sure every single person we thought was missing was accounted for,” Ayala said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds describes “unimaginable” destruction after touring a neighborhood just outside of Winterset, Iowa, hit by an EF3 tornado. Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Madison County only hours after the storm passed through the area.
Grant Gerlock
/
IPR
Gov. Kim Reynolds describes “unimaginable” destruction after touring a neighborhood just outside of Winterset, hit by an EF3 tornado. Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Madison County only hours after the storm passed through the area.

Gov. Kim Reynolds visited Winterset Sunday and toured the areas hit by the tornado, where she said the destruction was “unimaginable.”

“Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones and those who were impacted by the storm,” Reynolds said, appearing at the fire station with Ayala.

Reynolds estimated that 200-300 volunteers raced to Winterset Sunday to help residents pick up from the storm.

“Not only from Madison County and Winterset but from communities and towns all across the state that were on the ground the minute it was light and they could start helping,” Reynolds said. "I tried to walk through and thank them for being there, and over and over the response was, 'We're Iowans and that's what we do. We show up, we take care of our family, we take care of our neighbors, and we take care of our community.'"

Mid-American Energy reported that nearly all Winterset residents whose homes were intact had their power restored by Sunday night, although hundreds remained without power in the Des Moines area in Norwalk and Pleasant Hill where there were reports of a separate tornado on the ground Saturday evening.

Editor's note: this story has been updated to correct the spelling of Kinlee Bolger.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa