While Iowa’s been relatively free of severe weather this spring, some Iowans are remembering back 35 years ago when a couple of tornadoes left death and destruction across northeast Iowa. Oelwein fire chief Wally Rundle was on duty as a firefighter when the storm struck May 15th of 1968. One person was killed in the Oelwein tornado, a surprise since Rundle says there wasn’t much warning. He says he went and pushed the tornado siren button, the siren came to full pitch for 10 seconds and then quit as the power went off and the tornado moved through town. Rundle says the storm came from the north and quickly went right through the heart of town. He says it did have a lot of wind and sounded like a freight train, but lasted only a minute to a minute and a half. Rundle says they came out of the basement to survey the damage as soon as they felt it was safe. He says the most eerie thing was the lack of sound, with no birds chirping outside the fire station, and a quiet that came over the whole community. Rundle was on the call to rescue the woman that turned out to be the only fatality of the storm.He says she was trapped between two floors of a building. She was removed from the building and taken to the Oelwein hospital where she later died from her injuries. Rundle says there were numerous other people who suffered injuries from flying glass and debris. He says the power was out for day, but that was initially a blessing, as there weren’t any fires started from downed power line. The tornado continued on a path from Oelwein into nearby Maynard, where two people died. Another tornado touched down in Charles City the same day — killing 13 people.
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