DES MOINES, Iowa (NewsNation) — Violent tornadoes carved a path of destruction and loss in Central Iowa on Saturday.
“Devastating … it was unimaginable, the destruction we were able to witness on the brief tour we just went through,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Sunday.
First responders jumped into action immediately.
“The trees were down, there was plenty of debris, but despite that, we still got our vehicles through a very small gap,” said a first responder on the scene.
Officials have identified six of the seven people who were killed in Madison County.
Among those killed were: Melissa Bazley, 63; Rodney Clark, 64; Cecilia Lloyd, 72; Michael Bolger, 37; Kenley Bolger, 5; and Owen Bolger, 2. The victims came from three households.
“Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones and those who were impacted by the storm,” Reynolds said.
Lucas County officials didn’t immediately identify the person who died there Sunday afternoon.
Six people hurt in Madison County were being treated for injuries Sunday, but their conditions weren’t immediately available.
Seven people total were killed Saturday as a result of the tornado, which damaged buildings and knocked down trees and power lines, authorities said.
The weather service estimates this storm registered as an EF3 tornado.
Emergency management officials in Madison County said four were injured and six people were killed Saturday when the tornado touched down in the area southwest of Des Moines at about 4:30 p.m. Among those killed were two children and four adults.
In Lucas County, officials confirmed one death and multiple reported injuries.
Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala said 25 to 30 homes were badly damaged by the tornado.
“This is the worst anyone has seen in a very long time,” he said.
Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for the county, which allows state resources to be used to assist with response and recovery efforts.
“Our hearts go out to all those affected by the deadly storms that tore through our state today,” Reynolds said. “Our hearts ache during this time, but I know Iowans will step up and come together to help in this time of need — they already are.”
Wendy Burkett told the Des Moines Register she and two of her three daughters were in their house Saturday afternoon when her husband, Tony, called her from a nearby shed where he was working and alerted her about a tornado warning.
Burkett said she came outside and joined him in front of the house, looking down their driveway toward the southwest.
“And then we saw it. The tornado,” she said. “There was debris flying around and it was getting louder and louder.”
They hurried with their daughters to their basement as the tornado roared by within seconds. As they clung to each other, a window shattered outward and water began spewing from the pipes, she said.
But within about a minute, the tornado passed by, and while the family was unhurt, their home was in ruins amid debris all around, even in the trees.
The National Weather Service in Des Moines tweeted later Saturday that initial photos and videos from the damage around the community of Winterset suggested it was at least an EF-3 tornado, capable of causing severe damage, on the Enhanced Fujita scale. It said weather service teams would investigate the damage Sunday and further assess a potential rating.
Thunderstorms that spawned tornadoes moved through much of Iowa from the afternoon until Saturday night with storms also causing damage in the Des Moines suburb of Norwalk, areas just east of Des Moines and other areas of eastern Iowa.
Officials reported a number of homes were damaged, roads were blocked by downed lines and tree branches were shredded by the strong winds. Photos tweeted on social media showed downed trees, debris and damaged roofs and vehicles. At one point, power outages affected about 10,000 in the Des Moines area.