Tornadoes cause destruction in Iowa as deadly storms race across state

A series of large, violent tornadoes struck Iowa on Tuesday, causing significant destruction and fatalities in some rural communities.

Portions of Iowa, northwestern Illinois, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin were placed under a "Particularly Dangerous Situation" Tornado Watch as rounds of powerful storms raced across the region, continuing a dayslong severe weather threat across the U.S.  

Less than 5% of all severe weather watches are given the Particularly Dangerous Situation tag, which signified forecasters' concerns about the outbreak.


Several deaths were attributed to the severe weather outbreak centered southwest of the state capital of Des Moines.

An Iowa resident is believed to have been killed as a supercell raced through Corning in Adams County, and at least two were killed in the Greenfield area. Several additional people were reportedly injured during the tornadoes across the state.

Tornadoes spotted across Iowa

More than a dozen tornadoes were spotted over western and central parts of Iowa on Tuesday. 

Tornadoes were reported in Red Oak, Carbon, Corning and Greenfield, damaging power lines, wind turbines and homes. At least one wind turbine was on fire and propped against the ground in Prescott, Iowa, southwest of Des Moines.


Image 1 of 8

Wind turbines damaged during severe storms in Prescott, Iowa (FOX Weather)

The FOX Forecast Center spotted debris on radar from two twisters that impacted Carbon and Corning, and debris was being reported thrown at least 15 miles from a tornado that impacted Greenfield, Iowa.

Greenfield, located in Adair County, has a population of around 2,000 people and is at the heart of the county.

Video showed people searching through rubble from what was a large tornado. Due to the powerful display on radar, forecasters believe the twister was on the upper half of the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Damage appeared to be significant on the southern and eastern sides of Greenfield, around the region's medical center.

"Most of this town is gone … there's no other way to put it. Most of this town is gone," FOX Weather Exclusive Storm Tracker Brandon Copic said. reported more than half of Adair County was without power following the severe storms.


Roads into and out of Greenfield were blocked by first responders in the hours after the severe weather to keep nonresidents out of the community.

"So it came up pretty quickly. The storm was moving at 50 to 55 miles an hour. So they're coming in quickly. People had a decent warning … and, thankfully, 99% of the people that we had talked to had a good reaction to that warning and took shelter," Copic said.

Parts of the Des Moines metro were also put under a Tornado Warning on Tuesday afternoon. A wind gust of 71 mph was reported east of Des Moines at the Newton Municipal Airport.

Outside the severe storms, a Dust Storm Warning was issued for central Illinois due to reduced visibility around Champaign and Decatur.

Satellite animation of supercells rolling through Iowa on 5/21/2024

‘I heard the train’

Valerie Warrior is a lifelong Iowa resident and said one of the first signs trouble was on the way to Greenfield on Tuesday was when she started receiving texts from her family members.

"So, I went downstairs, got my cat and I went into the furnace room. I was holding my cat for my whole life, and I was shaking, and I heard the train," Warrior told FOX Weather.

Warrior said the storm lasted only about a minute, but during that time period, windows broke, trees fell, and the small town was changed forever.

"There's houses down and flattened next to me and all over the place. My house got hurt. It got some damage to the roof, with the front porch, windows are out, and the back garage got a hole in the roof, but nothing compared to the devastation all over town," said Warrior.

The National Weather Service office in Des Moines will survey damage over the next couple of days to determine the strength of the twisters.


Staff from the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, Iowa, will conduct several storms surveys Wednesday, including the Corning and Greenfield areas, as well as northern Polk and Story counties. (FOX Weather)