The Ottumwa Courier

April 29, 2014

Tornado now confirmed

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — When residents near Highland Center say there was a tornado, believe it.

While most damage from Sunday's storms in southeast Iowa has been attributed to "straight-line winds," a National Weather Service survey team saw evidence of a tornado.

Though it tore through Wapello County for only a few minutes, it continued on into Keokuk County. There, the tornado killed one person, collapsed a barn, which critically injured a person in Martinsburg, and blew down utility poles near Sigourney.

In a "preliminary" report issued Monday night, NWS investigators in Wapello County described evidence of tornado damage three miles east of the "hamlet" of Highland Center. The survey said this F-1 tornado did not cause any death or injuries on Sunday in Wapello County.

"Initial damage included a destroyed chicken barn and two snapped power poles," states the NWS report. "About 2 miles northeast of the initial damage, large utility poles were found leaning, and this is where the highest estimated wind speeds of 108 mph were determined."

Researchers said the tornado moved along the ground for a little more than three miles in Wapello County; it covered that distance in about four minutes. Though the twister did not cause injuries in this county, multiple injuries were reported around the same time, about 3:20 p.m., in Ottumwa.

The tornado, in fact, caused little additional damage in Wapello County, but crossed into Keokuk County, then traveled an additional 44 miles for what the NWS called "a near continuous damage path."

Keokuk County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Smith says one person died Sunday when strong winds caused an outbuilding to collapse in a rural area near Kinross. He told the Associated Press the victim's identity is being withheld pending notification of relatives.

— To follow Mark Newman on Twitter, check out @CourierMark