Seven people were killed, including two children, when a tornado swept through central Iowa, damaging buildings and downing trees and power lines, authorities said.
Madison County emergency management officials said four people were injured and six people killed Saturday when the tornado touched down in the area southwest of Des Moines around 4:30 p.m. Among those killed there were two children and four adults.
In Lucas County, authorities have confirmed one death and several reported injuries.
Thunderstorms that spawned tornadoes swept through much of Iowa from the afternoon through Saturday evening, with storms also causing damage in the Des Moines suburb of Norwalk, areas just east of Des Moines and other areas of eastern Iowa.
Authorities reported that a number of houses were damaged, roads were blocked by downed lines and tree branches were torn apart by high winds. Photos tweeted on social media showed downed trees, debris and damaged roofs and vehicles. At one point, power outages affected approximately 10,000 people in the Des Moines area.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines tweeted early Sunday that there have been at least three thunderstorms producing tornadoes, but it is not known at this time how many tornadoes have occurred.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for the county, which allows state resources to be used to help with response and recovery efforts.
“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the deadly storms that tore through our state today,” Reynolds said. “Our hearts are hurting during this time, but I know Iowans will step up and come together to help in this time of need – they already are.”
Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said 25 to 30 homes were badly damaged.
“This is the worst anyone has seen in a very long time,” he said.
Officials did not identify those killed but said they were not all at the same location.
Wendy Burkett told the Des Moines Register that she and two of her three daughters were home Saturday afternoon when her husband, Tony, called her from a nearby shed where he worked and alerted her to a warning. of tornado.
Burkett said she came out and joined him in front of the house, looking down their driveway to the southwest. “And then we saw it. The tornado,” she said. “There was debris flying around and it was getting louder and louder.”
They rushed with their daughters to their basement as the tornado roared within seconds. As they clung to each other, a window shattered outside and water began gushing out of the pipes, she said.
But within about a minute the tornado passed, and while the family was unharmed, their home lay in ruins amid debris all around, even in the trees.
The Des Moines National Weather Service tweeted on Saturday that early photos and video of damage around the community of Winterset suggested it was at least an EF-3 tornado, capable of causing severe damage, at the improved Fujita scale. He said weather service crews would investigate the damage on Sunday and further assess a potential rating.