Clean-up efforts under way
70 mph winds hammer Central Iowa; trees uprooted, roofs damaged
Central Iowans are still assessing the damage after strong, straight-line winds exceeding 70 mph in some cases hit the state hard Wednesday.
Straight-line winds are defined by the National Weather Service as “generally any wind generated by a thunderstorm that is not associated with rotation, and which is differentiated from tornadic winds.”
A semi-trailer driver from Dike was killed when heavy winds from the storm flipped the rig, fatally injuring the driver, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
James Arthur Budlong, 70, of Dike was driving on Iowa Highway 57, just east of Parkersburg, when the accident occurred at about 5:40 p.m. during the thunderstorm.
Storm spotters reported wind gusts around 70 miles per hour in Parkersburg.
In Marshall County, Sheriff Steve Hoffman and Emergency Management Director Kim Elder said they were not aware of serious injuries to residents.
Locally, winds topped out at a staggering 71 mph, as recorded by the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, located several miles west of Marshalltown.
Winds also knocked a tractor-trailer off Highway 30, east of Marshalltown near Shady Oaks Road, said Hoffman. The driver was not injured.
“It is not unusual for tractor-trailers with no load, or a light load to be adversely impacted by winds of this magnitude,” the sheriff said
The brutal winds played havoc with semis on I-35 and I-80, with several blown off the road according to numerous media reports.
Elsewhere, damaged roofs, uprooted trees, and downed power lines were the norm.
Hoffman said deputies stood guard outside one rural home on 160th Street left roofless from the wind’s wake just outside of Green Mountain.
In Marshalltown, a steady buzz from chain-saws at work filled the air throughout the day.
The town’s northwest section seemed to have been hit hardest.
Crews were busy making roof repairs on the Sheeler Administration Building at the Iowa Veterans Home on Thursday as a steady drizzle fell.
All residents and staff were reported safe on the large campus, home to more than 500 residents and 900 staff.
“To ensure everyone’s safety, Interim Commandant Susan Wilkinson closed Sheeler with the exception of maintenance staff and contractors,” according to an IVH press release. “Most Sheeler services have been relocated to other areas and the operations are continuing. Initial assessments show roof damage to three buildings. Numerous trees are down and the home sustained some damage to the cemetery, including headstones.”
Winds blew in several hangar doors at the Marshalltown Municipal Airport.
Elsewhere Elder said she was gathering information from county residents.
“I appreciate all of the residents who have notified me regarding property damage,” she said. “It is important to pass that information on to the NWS … it helps them track the storm’s path. Elder said it is helpful when people post photos of damage on the Marshall County Emergency Management’s Facebook page.
She confirmed the damage was from straight-line winds.
However, she and Hoffman were awaiting reports from a MCSO drone which was deployed Wednesday night in limited areas to verify if there was tornadic activity.
“Due to oncoming darkness, we did not have the opportunity to survey numerous sites,” said Elder.
More than 1,500 Alliant customers were still without power as of Thursday, reported the company’s website. Marshalltown Community School District students received an unexpected day off when school district officials canceled classes after learning Miller Middle School was without power.
Power was restored to the school late Thursday afternoon, and MCSD Communications Director Andrew Potter said district classes would resume today.