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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

At least 7 killed as powerful storms rampage across Iowa, officials say

A utility worker attended to a downed traffic signal in Des Moines after a strong storm caused damage in areas of central Iowa on Saturday.

By Vimal Patel

At least seven people were killed, including two children, in Iowa on Saturday as communities across the state were battered by what authorities said appeared to be tornadoes.

Six of the deaths occurred in Madison County, and a seventh was reported in Chariton, a city in Lucas County, officials said.

In Madison County, four adults were injured, including three who were in serious condition and one who had life-threatening injuries, said Diogenes Ayala, the director of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency.

“The best thing the community can do is just to not go to these areas,” Ayala said at a news conference late Saturday. “Let people that are living there — let them clean up. Give them some space. This is pretty devastating for our community.”

Ayala said that people should call authorities if they know someone who is missing.

The deaths in Madison County — including two children under age 5 — occurred at different locations. Ayala did not disclose more details about the deaths because some victims’ families had yet to be notified.

Ayala estimated that 25 to 30 homes had been destroyed but said a fuller assessment would come in the morning.

The National Weather Service said that a preliminary examination of photos and videos from around Winterset, a city in Madison County, suggested damage from a tornado with wind speeds of more than 135 mph.

The agency’s survey teams will further investigate the damage Sunday, officials said.

Video posted on social media and recorded south of Winterset showed the aftermath of the severe weather: piles of debris, smoke and a car flipped upside down.

Officials in Lucas County did not release details about the death there, also because family members had not been notified. Another person was seriously injured, a few had minor injuries, and four to six homes in the rural area were “majorly impacted,” Mike Lamb, the emergency management coordinator for Lucas County, said late Saturday.

Tornadoes are “fairly common” in Iowa, Lamb said. “It’s not an uncommon occurrence,” he added. “But tornadoes of these magnitudes that cause damage are rare, or rarer.”

Several homes in Norwalk, about 10 miles south of Des Moines, were damaged along with the city’s public works site and some local businesses, said Shelby Hisel, a city spokesperson.

As of late Saturday, no injuries had been reported in Norwalk. Hisel was not sure whether the damage was the result of a tornado or another extreme weather event, such as high winds, and said the city would assess the damage in the morning.

The Des Moines International Airport was evacuated for more than 20 minutes as a precaution in response to a tornado warning, causing flight delays, said Kayla Kovarna, an airport spokesperson.

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