The strongest storms to hit southeast Iowa in several years struck Sunday. Damage was widespread throughout the region.
Winds were estimated at 70 mph when the storms hit Wapello County. While forecasters had known for several days that Sunday would be stormy, most expected the storms in this area to hit later in the evening or overnight.
The worst-hit area in Ottumwa appeared to be along the 1000 block of West Mary Street near Liberty Elementary School, where the National Weather Service says radar data suggests a possible tornado. A survey team will be in Ottumwa Monday to determine whether the storm damage is due to straight-line winds or a tornado.
Numerous houses had severe roof damage. A two-foot diameter tree was knocked down and flag poles were bent. Property was thrown several blocks by the storm’s winds. Neighbors said several people were seriously hurt and at least two were sent to the hospital with head and back injuries.
Assistant Fire Chief Mike Craff said it is unclear how many people were injured. Private vehicles took four to six people to the hospital. At least one person was taken by ambulance.
Craff was not sure how serious most of the injuries were, though some were serious. "One of those was a possible electrocution," he said.
The storms were blamed for one death in Kinross, in northern Keokuk County.
Damage was widespread. The large evergreen in front of Ottumwa’s city hall toppled onto a car. A large tree came down on Northgate south of Eisenhower Elementary. It struck a power line and the force splintered the utility pole.
As the storm hit, fire crews were called to the scene of a house fire at 450 Crestview Avenue. The fire was contained to the basement and is thought to be unrelated to the storm, though the home sustained smoke and heat damage throughout the structure.