54 Years Ago: Fall F5 Tornado Hits Iowa
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, especially in Iowa.
While most are weak and touch down in open fields, some are powerful and destructive. According to Weather Underground, 11 tornadoes that hit the state have produced wind speeds greater than 200 mph (known as EF5's, or F5's prior to Feb. 1, 2007). One of those deadly twisters ripped through a small north-central Iowa town 54 years ago and is the only large-scale tornado to hit the state in the fall.
The date was Oct. 14, 1966. Six people were killed and 172 injured when the massive storm rolled through Wright County and left the city of Belmond in ruins. According to the National Weather Service storm report, one man died in a cement mixer truck. The other five victims were elderly people.
Data shows the massive twister wiped out four blocks of Belmond's five-block business section, destroying or damaging 75 of the city's 112 businesses. The storm leveled 109 homes and damaged 468 others. Between Belmond and Clarion, 27 farms were hit and several farm homes were ruined.
According to an Associated Press news story, the twister hit without warning around 2 PM, just minutes after Belmond (now Belmond-Klemme) High School's Homecoming parade ended.
Courtesy: James Sprau via YouTube (Video Taken By Grandfather John Sprau)
Three of the deadliest and most-destructive tornadoes in the state's history touched down in northeast Iowa. Two of them formed the same day, less than two years after the Belmond tornado.
Many people still remember what happened on May 15, 1968. One massive twister hit Charles City and Elma, and a second carved a path through downtown Oelwein and Maynard. Those two F5 tornadoes combined killed 18 people, injured more than 600, and caused an estimated $52.5 million damage.
Courtesy: IV Labs via YouTube
The most-recent, highest-rated tornado to hit Iowa was the EF5 twister that moved 43-miles across Butler and Black Hawk Counties on May 25, 2008. The twister shredded the southern part of Parkersburg and the northern edge of New Hartford, killing nine people and injuring more than 100.
Courtesy: KCCI via YouTube
Sources: gendisasters.com, weatherunderground.com, National Weather Service
NOTE: This story was originally posted in October, on the anniversary of the event. It has been reposted this week as part of a series of stories highlighting "Severe Weather Awareness Week".