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Tornadoes that tore through Iowa leave 5 dead, dozens injured

Five people died and at least 35 were hurt as powerful tornadoes ripped through Iowa Tuesday, with one carving a path of destruction through the town of Greenfield, officials said.

One powerful twister carved a path of destruction right through the town of Greenfield, officials said

The aftermath of a deadly Iowa tornado

6 hours ago

Duration 0:30

Debris from damaged homes was strewn across Greenfield, Iowa, after a tornado tore through the town on Tuesday, killing at least four people.

Five people died and at least 35 were hurt as powerful tornadoes ripped through Iowa Tuesday, with one carving a path of destruction through the town of Greenfield, officials said.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Tuesday's tornadoes killed four people in the Greenfield area, and local officials said a fifth person — a woman whose car was swept away in the wind — was killed by a twister about 40 kilometres away. Officials did not release the names of the victims because they were still notifying relatives.

Iowa Public Safety said it's believed that the number of people injured is likely higher.

The Greenfield tornado left a wide swath of obliterated homes, splintered trees and crumpled cars in the town of 2,000 located about 90 kilometres southwest of Des Moines.

An aerial view shows the extent of the damage done in Greenfield, Iowa, where a tornado tore through a small town on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

The twister also ripped apart and crumpled massive power-producing wind turbines several kilometres outside the town.

Greenfield resident Kimberly Ergish, 33, and her husband dug through the debris that used to be their home Wednesday, looking for family photos and other salvageable items. There wasn't much left, she acknowledged.

"Most of it we can't save, but we're going to get what we can," she said, noting the reality of having her home destroyed in seconds hasn't really set in.

"If it weren't for all the bumps and bruises and the achy bones, I would think that it didn't happen."

Kimberly Ergish holds flowers as she cleans out belongings from her tornado damaged home, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa.

Tornado, flood warnings issued for Texas

Later Tuesday, the storms pummelled parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers in the two states.

The severe weather turned south on Wednesday, and the U.S. National Weather Service was issuing tornado and flash flood warnings in Texas, as parts of the state — including Dallas — were under a tornado watch.

The weather service said initial surveys indicated at least an EF-3 tornado in Greenfield, but additional damage assessment could lead to a more powerful ranking.

The tornado appeared to have been on the ground for more than 60 kilometres, AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jon Porter said. A satellite photo taken by a BlackSky Technology shows where the twister gouged a nearly straight path of destruction through the town, just south of Greenfield's centre square.

A satellite photo, taken by a BlackSky Technology satellite, provides a view of the damage a tornado did to the small town of Greenfield, Iowa.

The tornado that decimated parts of Greenfield brought to life the worst-case scenario in Iowa that weather forecasters had feared, Porter said.

"Debris was lifted thousands of feet in the air and ended up falling to the ground several counties away from Greenfield. That's evidence of just how intense and deadly this tornado was."

People as far as 160 kilometres away from Greenfield posted pictures on Facebook of ripped family photos, yearbook pages and other items that the tornado lifted into the sky.

More than 140 kilometres away, in Ames, Iowa, Nicole Banner found a yellowed page declaring, "This Book is the Property of the Greenfield Community School District" stuck to her garage door like a Post-It note after the storm passed.

"We just couldn't believe it had travelled that far," she said.

A woman walks out of the basement of a tornado damaged home, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa.

Iowa hospital damaged by storms

Greenfield's 25-bed hospital was among the buildings damaged, and at least a dozen people who were hurt had to be taken to facilities elsewhere.

Hospital officials said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the facility will remain closed until it can be further assessed and noted that full repairs could take weeks or months.

Residential streets that on Monday were lined with old-growth trees and neatly appointed ranch-style homes were a chaotic jumble of splintered and smashed remnants by Wednesday. Many of the homes' basements where residents sheltered lay exposed and front yards were littered with everything from furniture to children's toys and Christmas decorations.

Dwight Lahey, a 70-year-old retired truck driver, drove from suburban Des Moines to Greenfield to help his 98-year-old mother.

He said she had taken refuge from the tornado in her basement, then walked through her destroyed garage to a nearby convenience store.

"I don't know how she got through that mess," he said, noting his mom was staying in a hotel and was uncertain about where she'll end up with her home gone.

A man is seen talking on a cellphone in front of a tornado-damaged home in Greenfield, Iowa, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

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