May 18, 2024

Tornado, severe weather, hits Clarke County

A series of strong storms producing damaging winds and tornadoes across the Midwest on Friday, April 26, found Clarke County in its path as they made their way across Iowa.

As the storms reached Iowa in the early evening hours on Friday, severe thunderstorm and tornado watches began being issued for counties in the western and southern part of the state, with several turning to warnings. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), as of April 29 there were 24 confirmed tornadoes in Iowa on April 26.

Osceola

In Osceola, tornado warnings began just before 8 p.m., and again at 8:40. The NWS later reported the time a confirmed tornado was in Osceola was from 8:30 to 8:42 p.m. The path of the tornado began southwest of Osceola near Interstate 35, and traveled northeast through town, passing over the areas of Grade Lake, Clarke County Hospital and Clarke Elementary School.

Residents around the Grade Lake area reported seeing a funnel cloud come down and then go back up. Several large trees were uprooted throughout the tornado’s path. Cables and poles were brought down, and property damage was reported. Despite some initial reports, no damage was reported at Clarke Elementary School.

One property just south of Osceola on South Ridge Rd was hit by the tornado, taking off the top level of a home owned by Joe and JoAnn Franksain and scattering parts of their home across town. According to a report by KCCI, the couple and their dog were able to take shelter in a bathroom on a lower level of their home, and were physically unharmed.

Community members arrived Saturday to help the couple go through debris and begin cleanup. A GoFundMe has been set up for the couple.

Others needing assistance in Osceola after the storm were helped by community members as well, including helping clear downed trees and picking up.

Support

On Friday evening, Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley posted the following message on his mayoral Facebook page:

“To the people of Osceola - We have weathered the storm! Our thoughts and prayers go out to any who were injured or received property damage! Please stage all tree debris by the street curb (city right of way) for pickup. Our first responders and city staff will be putting teams together to assist in debris removal. Please reach out if you need further assistance. Thank you to all first responders for your service and dedication to keeping our community safe!”

On Monday, April 29, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued disaster proclamations for eight counties, including Clarke County. A press release from the governor’s office says of the proclamation:

“The governor’s proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather and activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program and Disaster Case Advocacy Program...

The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management website at  homelandsecurity.iowa.gov/assistance. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.

The Disaster Case Advocacy Program addresses serious needs related to disaster-related hardship, injury, or adverse conditions. Disaster case advocates work with clients to create a disaster recovery plan and provide guidance, advice, and referrals to obtain a service or resource. There are no income eligibility requirements for this program; it closes 180 days from the date of the governor’s proclamation. For information on the Disaster Case Advocacy Program, contact your local community action agency or visit  iowacommunityaction.org.

The proclamation also temporarily suspends regulatory provisions of the Iowa Code that pertain to procurement of goods and services, hours of service for disaster repair crews, and various requirements for the transportation of loads related to disaster repairs.”

NWS tornado rating

NWS rated the Friday tornado in Osceola as an EF-2, with peak wind speeds estimated at 135 miles per hour. The path length was 6.75 miles, with a max width of 75 yards. No injuries or deaths were reported.

As of April 29, KCCI showed rain totals for Osceola from Friday though Sunday night sitting at 2.26, with earlier reports showing Murray with 2.23 inches.

Creston

In Creston, tornadoes on April 26 were also rated as EF-2, and were reported to be on the ground from six to 10 miles, running from 150 to 350 yards wide. Damage was done to Greater Regional Medical Center, Homestead Assisted Living and several homes in the area. Some of the residents at Creston Homestead were evacuated to Osceola Homestead.

Other damage in Union County included five destroyed homes and several others were damaged in the Creston, Afton, Lorimor, etc. areas. Three Mile Recreation Area at Three Mile Lake just north of Afton was hit by two tornadoes, causing extensive damage to the lodge, Union County Conservation Office and an attached shed. No injuries were reported at the Three Mile Campground, but Union County Conservation Director Doug Jones said the damage may be irreparable, and isn’t sure on if the lodge will need to be repaired or rebuilt. The office and shed will be a total loss.

On Monday, April 29, the Union County Board of Supervisors declared a disaster emergency for Union County. Union County is also included in Gov. Reynolds’ disaster proclamation.

KCCI and Creston News Advertiser contributed to this story. Final tornado counts will take time as NWS reviews radar data, satellite imagery and videos.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.