OTTUMWA — Weather scientists say the tornado that killed two Iowans Sunday started in Wapello County near Highland Center and Hedrick.
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 two people in different parts of the county.
In a "preliminary" report issued Monday night, NWS investigators in Wapello County described evidence of tornado damage 3 miles east of the "hamlet" of Highland Center. The survey said this EF1 tornado did not cause any deaths or injuries on Sunday in Wapello County.
Researchers said the tornado moved along the ground for a little more than 3 miles in Wapello County; it covered that distance in about four minutes. The storm associated with the twister has been blamed for multiple injuries reported around the same time, about 3:20 p.m., in Ottumwa. Ottumwa Regional Health Center said they treated 20 victims on Sunday.
The tornado crossed from the Hedrick area in Wapello County 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 the tornado caused a farm building to collapse in a rural area near Kinross. He confirmed a second person died Tuesday from injuries sustained on Sunday.
"Both people that died were outside," said Smith, "in different parts of the county."
One resident was in the southwest part of Keokuk County; the other, miles away in the northeast section of the county. Though both were outside during the severe thunderstorm warning, neither could know a tornado was bearing down on them. It was hidden within the storm.