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Newscast 5.23.2024: Death total caused by Iowa tornado rises to 4; Okoboji's landmark Queen II escapes damage after unmooring; Gas prices moving down and up

The Queen II excursion boat is shown in this publicity photo from Explore Okoboji.
The Queen II excursion boat is shown in this publicity photo from Explore Okoboji.

Officials are now confirming a tornado that struck the Iowa town of Greenfield killed four people and injured at least 35 others.

Residents, infrastructure crews and others continue to clean up debris from dozens of homes that were leveled by the storm Tuesday. Electric crews worked on rebuilding power lines while workers in skid steers cleared debris.

Authorities say they are withholding the names of the four people killed while their families are notified. At least 14 people with injuries were taken by EMS personnel to more distant medical facilities.

Michelle Lund was picking through debris, as most of the rooms of her home in Greenfield are gone. She says when the tornado crashed into her home she was rushing to get her four kids and two dogs to safety.

“My husband got all the kids to the back room and the dog got out so I was trying to chase the dog and we looked outside and you could see debris swirling. We literally just jumped on top of the kids, and it was done. It was that fast,” Lund said.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says 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 FEMA.

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.

*Additionally, with the Memorial Day holiday weekend marking the arrival of tourists to the Okoboji area in Northwest Iowa, a major draw had a setback.

After months of renovations to the Queen II excursion boat that cost about $700,000 and wrapped up mid-May, the vessel was unmoored by strong wind and moved into some adjacent docks Tuesday.

However, an Instagram post by Arnolds Park Amusement Park on Wednesday reported there was no damage. So the Queen II is back in place and will take people for excursions beginning on Saturday..

The Queen II is more than 40 years old, and the recent repair work included such things as new engines, propellers, and other pieces to make it operate better.

*Iowa state parks and forests are gearing up for a busy weekend. Iowa Department of Natural Resources official Sherry Arntzen said there is something for everyone who likes the outdoors, from hiking the trails to picnicking, fishing and swimming.

Campers are urged to plan ahead when visiting Iowa state parks and forests for Memorial Day weekend. Most electrical and full hookup sites in busy parks are already reserved.

Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said Memorial Day weekend is often the first time on the water for many boaters and they should take time to review Iowa boating laws and plan to have patience at the ramp and on the water.

*Additionally, gas prices frequently rise ahead of the holiday, but for this year, prices in Iowa have been rising and falling the last four weeks.

The average price for self-serve unleaded has gone down in two of those weeks, but over the last week, it rose by six cents to an average of $3.30 per gallon.

The pricing data comes from AAA.

Many Sioux City and surrounding towns are selling unleaded this week in the range from $2.99 to $3.39.

Compared to one year ago, the current $3.30 average price is down 10 cents. The national average unleaded gas price is $3.61.