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Newscast 5.22.2024: Tornado strikes with death, severe damage in western Iowa; Woodbury County jail opening further delayed to late July

Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)
Damage is seen after a tornado moved through Greenfield, Iowa, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Hannah Fingerhut)

The tornado season has been particularly devastating in western Iowa this spring, as a second town was considerably destroyed on Tuesday, when at least one person died.

Authorities in Iowa were continuing search and rescue efforts Wednesday.

The Adams County Sheriff’s office said a woman died Tuesday when her vehicle was blown off the road during the storms about 3 miles north of Corning, Iowa, or about 30 miles southwest of Greenfield, where the tornado left a wide swath of obliterated homes and crumpled cars.

The Associated Press reported the tornado destroyed much of Greenfield, a town with 2,000 residents, and which is located about 55 miles southwest of Des Moines. The National Weather Service said it received 23 tornado reports Tuesday, with most in Iowa, and one each in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

After touring the damage midday Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds thanked weather forecasters for early warning on the timing of the storms.

“Based on the early advanced notice that we were able to get many of our schools got those kids out of school early. And it hit here at three (p.m.), so that would have been the time that the kids would have been on the bus and heading home and it would have been devastating,” Reynolds said.

Officials have said multiple people died in the storm, but Reynolds said search and rescue is ongoing and would not confirm a number of people killed or injured.

She said the state is working with federal officials to speed up a presidential disaster declaration for Greenfield which would free up support for local residents and businesses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Associated with that, MidAmerican Energy says it lost a total of six wind turbines in Tuesday’s tornado in Adair County. Company spokesperson Tina Hoffman says they were located at the Orient and Arbor Hills wind farms.

Hoffman said several turbines measured wind speeds of more than 100 miles an hour before they lost contact with sensors and the structures were destroyed. Hoffman says MidAmerican has operated wind turbines since 2004, and has only had one other instance of a collapse – also caused by a tornado.

She says the company will inspect all of their wind facilities affected by the storm before resuming operations.

Mary Long, the owner of Long’s Market in downtown Greenfield, said she rode out the storm at her business in the community’s historic town square, which largely escaped damage. Long said there appeared to be widespread damage on the east and south sides of town.

“I could hear this roaring, like the proverbial freight train, and then it was just done,” she said.

The deadly twister that hit Iowa came amid a historically bad season for tornadoes in the U.S., at a time when climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world.

April had the second highest number of tornadoes on record in the U.S.

April was the month when a tornado hit Minden, Iowa, causing much damage in that town with 600 residents, although no one was killed.

Iowa has had the most tornadoes this year with 81, followed by Texas with 74 and Kansas and Ohio each with 66.
Additionally, the often-delayed completion of the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center has been moved further back to late July, according to a county official.

Law Enforcement Center Authority Chairman Ron Wieck in a Tuesday release said the delay is to ensure work on the facility is up to specifications.

The new county jail was to have opened at one point in September 2023. Some more recent projections were April, then May, then early July, and now the latest timeline now says late July.

Wieck in a prior release pointed to an engineering firm consultant, Introba, as making errors in mechanical engineering services.

The delays are costing the county in lost revenues, so the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors have retained an attorney firm to pursue financial damages.

County voters in March 2020 approved a bond issue of $54 million to help pay for the project, to move away from an outmoded jail in downtown Sioux City.

In other news, half of the four lanes of the Gordon Drive viaduct in Sioux City were closed in abrupt fashion on Tuesday afternoon, and remain closed.

That viaduct bridge with the busy Gordon Drive thoroughfare passes over many railways. The two lanes that are closed are the westbound lanes, which are undergoing emergency repairs, which were found to be needed after some scheduled maintenance tasks were underway.

In addition, the viaduct now has a 10-ton vehicle weight restriction in place for both east- and westbound lanes, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation’s District 3 Office.

There is a posted detour for westbound Gordon Drive via other streets. IDOT has not stated how the closure will be in place.

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