MAPLETON, Iowa – Jamy Garden’s house began to rumble with the approach of a tornado that at one point measured three-quarters of a mile wide. Then the windows shattered, spraying her with glass. Using her cellphone as a flashlight, she fled downstairs and called her grandmother.
On Sunday, she returned home, wandering her backyard in a blood-splattered hooded sweatshirt, her right hand and left knee wrapped in gauze. Around her lay a tangle of tree branches, twisted siding, broken glass and a canoe that wasn’t hers.
The tornado that struck the evening before damaged more than half of Mapleton, a town of 1,200 in western Iowa, Mayor Fred Standa said Sunday. He estimated about 20 percent of the town was “almost flat.”
The huge trees the town was named for had been pulled out of the ground and wrapped around houses and tossed on top of cars, Standa said. Garden’s house survived, but everything inside was tossed around. Her two dogs were safe, but she hadn’t yet found her cat.
The tornado destroyed 12 to 15 blocks in the southwest corner of Mapleton when it struck about 7:20 p.m. Saturday, Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said. The tornado destroyed about 100 homes beyond repair and has displaced an estimated 500 to 600 residents, he said.
The tornado was one of several reported in Iowa. The weather service said it had confirmed four smaller twisters that touched down near Early and Nemaha, damaging several homes.
Storms moved through the nation’s midsection again Sunday, with some reports of tornadoes in Wisconsin, where several homes were damaged or destroyed. No injuries were immediately reported.
In Mapleton, the roof was blown off the high school, power lines were downed, and homes and buildings were destroyed. Pratt said two people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries. The weather service said it had received reports of 14 to 16 injuries, the most severe a broken leg.
Utilities also were damaged, and gas fumes filled the town, prompting officials to shut off service.