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Tornado-producing storms left five dead and dozens injured in Iowa

The devastating tornado that devastated the city of Greenfield, Iowa, on Tuesday left four dead and at least 35 injured, the Iowa State Patrol said in a news release Wednesday evening.

According to the Adair and Guthrie County Emergency Management Agency, two residents, Dean Wiggins, 78, and Pamela Wiggins, 77, were killed when their home was struck by a tornado. Another man, Michael Jensen, 73, died at his home. And William Williamson, 70, succumbed to his injuries after being taken from his home to a hospital.

In addition to the fatalities reported in Greenfield, at least one person was killed as storms moved through nearby Adams County, officials previously said. Monica Irma Zamarron, 49, lost her life after she was thrown from her vehicle on Highway 148, according to officials.

The Iowa State Patrol said the number of injuries from the Greenfield twister is “likely higher, but these numbers only reflect patients treated for their injuries at designated alternate care sites.” At least 14 patients were taken to medical facilities outside the province, the news release said.

The tornado that ripped through Greenfield — about 50 miles southwest of Des Moines — was an EF4, the National Weather Service in Des Moines said Thursday, and is the deadliest of the year. The tornado had peak winds of 200 to 200 miles per hour, was more than half a mile wide and was on the ground for 45 miles, according to the National Weather Service in Des Moines.

More than 100 emergency workers combed through the city’s rubble on Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said. The city hospital suffered damage and some patients were transferred to other facilities in surrounding areas. At least four medical airlift flights took place.

A “makeshift hospital” was set up Tuesday at the city’s lumberyard right after the tornado left the area, state Rep. Ray Sorensen said Wednesday. Sorensen lives in the area and assisted with recovery efforts in the immediate aftermath.

“We pulled a man out of the rubble and put him on a small makeshift stretcher we made for him on the back of a truck,” Sorensen remembers.

Video captured by CNN affiliate KCCI shows homes and other buildings destroyed and the community covered in piles of rubble, discarded cars and uprooted trees.

“It’s horrific,” Reynolds said Wednesday. “It’s hard to describe until you can actually see the devastation.”

People examine the rubble of tornado-damaged homes in Greenfield, Iowa, on Wednesday.  -Charlie Neibergall/APPeople examine the rubble of tornado-damaged homes in Greenfield, Iowa, on Wednesday.  -Charlie Neibergall/AP

People examine the rubble of tornado-damaged homes in Greenfield, Iowa, on Wednesday. -Charlie Neibergall/AP

At least three tornadoes were reported in Iowa on Tuesday – part of a flurry of storms that caused widespread power outages, structural damage and flooding across the US this week.

Tornado reports have risen well above average in recent weeks as the usually busiest period of the severe weather season unfolds. The more than 800 tornadoes reported to date make 2024 one of the most active years for tornadoes on record.

Greenfield, home to just over 2,100 residents, now has to recover from damage from the deadliest tornado in a year that has recorded fewer tornado deaths than 2023. Despite the number of tornadoes this year, there were from early 2024 through 2024 seventeen deaths. On Tuesday, 65 people died as a result of tornadoes during the same period last year.

Nearly 15,000 homes and businesses in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois were in the dark Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.

On Wednesday, a tornado ripped through Temple, Texas — about 35 miles south of Waco — causing widespread power outages and making many roads dangerous or impassable. First responders were inundated with emergency requests and prioritized life-saving calls Wednesday evening, the city said in a news release announcing a disaster declaration. “No life-threatening injuries or fatalities have been reported at this time,” the news release said.

More than 125,000 homes and businesses in Texas were without power Thursday morning, including nearly 55,000 in Bell County, where Temple is located, according to PowerOutage.us.

More than 200 homes destroyed in Iowa

The governor expanded her disaster declaration Thursday from 15 counties to 32, and said state officials are working with FEMA to get the federal declaration approved, citing “a lot of destruction and damage across the state.”

“We’re going to process it as quickly as possible,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

More than 200 homes were destroyed in Iowa, Reynolds said.

Greenfield and other parts of western Iowa were hit hard by the storms’ catastrophic effects: In Greenfield, Adair County, 153 homes were damaged or destroyed, according to Reynolds.

A tornado also toppled a massive wind turbine just south of Greenfield in Prescott, Iowa, and more than two dozen homes were damaged or destroyed in Montgomery County, including some “critical public facilities,” emergency officials said. No injuries were reported, but damage assessments are still ongoing.

But Greenfield is the epicenter of Tuesday’s event.

“There’s really nothing left,” Clel Baudler, a former Iowa state representative who lives a half-mile from Greenfield, told CNN on Tuesday.

Greenfield resident Valerie Warrior begged God to protect her home and her family before she weathered the storm in her basement, she told KCCI.

“I was in the boiler room and then I heard (the storm) like a train,” she said, describing insulation flying off basement windows. “I heard it and I knew it hit.”

Storm damage is seen in Greenfield, Iowa, on May 22, 2024. - Bill Kirkos/CNNStorm damage is seen in Greenfield, Iowa, on May 22, 2024. - Bill Kirkos/CNN

Storm damage is seen in Greenfield, Iowa, on May 22, 2024. – Bill Kirkos/CNN

Warrior said the extent of the damage is devastating to see, but she is confident residents will pull each other through the crisis.

‘They’ll get through it. You already see people helping each other and working together. And that’s what they do: people come together when a tragedy happens. People come together to support and encourage each other.”

Fighting back tears, Warrior looked out of the rubble strewn across her neighborhood and tried to smile.

“We’re going to rebuild,” she said. “We will rebuild.”

CNN’s Jessica Jordan, Sara Smart, Amy Simonson, Andy Rose, Brad Parks and Raja Razek contributed to this report.

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