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Storms in the Midwest: More severe weather forecast as Iowa cleans up tornado damage

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — The sky was blue and the wind was blowing as residents of the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, worked to clean up two days after a destructive tornado destroyed more than 100 homes in just one minute, taking away Four residents were killed and at least 35 others were injured.

Along the mile-long strip Thursday was the deafening clamor of heavy equipment clearing up smashed homes, smashed vehicles and crushed trees. But on both sides of that road, quaint homes and gardens appear intact, and it would be hard to believe that a tornado with peak winds of 109-115 kph (175-185 mph) devastated the community of 2,000.

A car damaged by a tornado lies on a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A car damaged by a tornado lies on a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

More severe weather conditions were expected in the Midwest Thursday night into Friday, including a tornado that was on the ground for nearly an hour in southwestern Oklahoma and possible tornadoes in already damaged areas of Iowa.

The havoc wreaked by Tuesday’s tornado in Greenfield showed on the faces of people still processing how quickly homes and lives were shattered: some mourning and many grateful to have been saved.

Among the dead were Dean and Pam Wiggins, grandson Tom Wiggins said.

On Thursday, she tried to find any of her grandparents’ keepsakes left after the tornado demolished their home, leaving little more than its foundation. She described them as “incredibly loved not only by our family but by the entire town.”

Not far away, Bill Yount was cleaning.

A truck damaged by a tornado sits in a lot, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A truck damaged by a tornado sits in a lot, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tom Wiggins sorts through debris at his grandparents' house damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tom Wiggins sorts through debris at his grandparents’ house damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“It’s like someone got a bomb,” Yount said, pointing to the terrain: covered in wood, debris, trees stripped of their leaves, heavy machinery and equipment to clean up the mess.

He waited out the storm in a closet.

“The roof lifted up and slammed shut and then all the windows blew out,” he said Thursday. The tornado tore the garage from his house and damaged the interior walls. “Forty seconds changed my life immensely,” she said.

A black van ended up badly damaged and parked between his house and a neighbor’s.

“No one knows who it belongs to,” he said.

Joan Mitchell, left, receives a hug from her neighbor Edith Schaecher in front of their homes damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Joan Mitchell, left, receives a hug from her neighbor Edith Schaecher in front of their homes damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Sherri Beitz was cleaning outside, grateful that her mother, Ginger Thompson, 79, survived despite not being able to reach the basement of her home because she is in a wheelchair.

“She was trapped for a while,” Beitz said. “It was a scary situation, but the main thing is that she is okay. The house can be replaced.”

“You look around and you’re very grateful that the community didn’t lose more than we did,” Beitz said.

Colton Newbury was working in Des Moines when the tornado struck, nearly 60 miles (97 kilometers) away from his wife and 10-month-old daughter in Greenfield.

He rushed back and discovered his house was “a hole in the ground,” he said. His wife had not heard the sirens. Newbury said his cousin ran out to get his wife and his baby, and they weathered the tornado in his cousin’s basement. The winds carried away entire houses, he said: “In almost all the houses on the block, only the foundations remain.”

Mitch Ernst, of Adair, Iowa, sorts through debris from his mother-in-law's home damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Mitch Ernst, of Adair, Iowa, sorts through debris from his mother-in-law’s home damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response Thursday as she sought a disaster declaration for several counties. After examining Tuesday’s destruction, the National Weather Service determined that three separate powerful tornadoes carved paths for a total of 130 miles (209.21 kilometers) across Iowa, according to Donna Dubberke, meteorologist in charge in Des Moines.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said her agency will process the application as quickly as possible to obtain resources, which could include funding for temporary housing, for those left homeless.

More than 202 homes were destroyed by a series of tornadoes that swept the state Tuesday, Reynolds said. Most were in and around Greenfield. The count does not include businesses or other buildings destroyed or damaged, such as the 25-bed Greenfield hospital.

Unsettled weather was expected to continue in the Midwest.

A tornado was in southwestern Oklahoma for nearly an hour Thursday night, the National Weather Service said. There were reports of some homes being damaged, but there were no immediate reports of injuries, meteorologist Jennifer Thompson said.

Local residents look through the rubble of their home damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Local residents look through the rubble of their home damaged by the tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The service had also received reports of very large hail, some the size of baseballs, while flash flooding occurred after 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain fell along the storm’s path during a period of approximately three hours, Thompson said. saying.

The weather service will have to investigate to determine how powerful the tornado was and how far on the ground it was, he said.

The weather service’s Storm Prediction Center showed an increased risk of severe thunderstorms Thursday morning into Friday morning for much of Nebraska and western Iowa, including areas where tornadoes hit Iowa and hurricane-force winds, much of Hail and torrential rain flooded streets and basements in Nebraska.

This latest stretch of severe weather, including possible tornadoes, will hit Iowa “when people are sleeping,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Ansorge of Des Moines warned.

People inspect a neighborhood damaged by a tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

People inspect a neighborhood damaged by a tornado, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“Due to the damage that already exists, it won’t take much wind to inflict even more damage on these homes,” Ansorge said. “It’s just a bad deal all the way around.”

More severe weather could also arrive on Saturday and Sunday in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas damaged by the storm.

___

Beck reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; and Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Montana contributed.

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