Iowa’s deadliest tornado in four decades passed within two miles of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s farm, and he admits he made a potentially-dangerous mistake to stay put and watch the mile-wide twister, instead of seeking cover.
Grassley’s farmstead is about a mile south of New Hartford and the twister passed about three-quarters of a mile north of town.
Grassley says: "I was expecting to see a funnel-shaped whirl that you normally associate with tornadoes but as I watched it, it was just a cloud of dust, wedge-shaped." While there was no damage to his farm, he knows it could have been a terrible misjudgment not to take refuge during such a large storm that was passing nearby. Grassley says he stayed upstairs and watched the tornado pass to the north.
"I didn’t go to the basement but considering how hard it hit and how quickly it hit, as I heard people tell me, it was kind of silly not to be in the basement," he says. Two of the six people killed by the tornado were in New Hartford, while more than 600 homes were damaged or destroyed. Grassley says the long stretch of damage across several counties is difficult to comprehend.
"It’s just devastating. It looks like a wilderness," he says. "What you see on television just doesn’t do justice as to how terrible the physical damage is and the human damage is impossible to measure." Grassley says he is "impressed" by how quickly people responded as neighbors helped neighbors to dig out, and how volunteers rapidly mobilized to bring in the much-needed aid, equipment and emergency medical services.
(photo courtesy of Bob Fisher)