Tornadoes struck Iowa Thursday afternoon, ripping the top off the historic Marshall County Courthouse and significantly damaging two of Iowa’s major businesses.
The National Weather Service used the word “catastrophic” to describe the destruction in Marshalltown. The roof was ripped off Marshalltown’s hospital and patients were evacuated. Lennox Industries facilities were damaged. Mark Smith, who represents Marshalltown in the state legislature, said homes were hit, too.
“I saw shingles completely removed from the roofs, glass windows broken out, the whole sides out of buildings and, of course, countless numbers of trees that have been destroyed,” he told Radio Iowa.
Police enforced a 9 p.m. curfew in Marshalltown, where about 10,000 Alliant Energy customers were without power. Officials also announced the Marshall County Courthouse would be closed until further notice. Smith said the building is the crown jewel of Marshalltown.
“The Iowa Statehouse, the Des Moines City Hall and the Marshalltown Courthouse all have the same architect and it is an incredibly beautiful building,” Smith said. “I didn’t get very close to it because I’m trying to stay out of the way of the emergency workers who are trying to do their job and I’m encouraging other people to do the same, but at one point I looked back it and just had an overwhelming sense of sadness to see that kind of destruction.”
The tornado tore off the building’s cupola. The courthouse was built 132 years ago and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Pella, the mile-long Vermeer Manufacturing campus took a direct hit late Thursday afternoon. In addition to hundreds of production workers, Vermeer was hosting about 400 deals and customers yesterday.
“This has been a momentous afternoon and we’ve had a lot of damage at Vermeer,” said Mary Andringa, chair of the company’s board of directors and the daughter of Vermeer’s founder. “We’re still assessing it.”
Seven people were taken to the hospital in Pella for treatment, but no major injuries were reported and all had been released by 8:30 Thursday evening. Vermeer operations for today are cancelled and the road in front of Vermeer’s campus is closed to traffic.
In the Des Moines suburb of Bondurant, one home was destroyed and several others were damaged by a late-afternoon tornado. Rural areas were hit as well. Coutnless power lines were downed by strong winds as well as actual tornadic activity. Power outages reported in the Ottumwa and Fairfield areas. MidAmerican reported about a thousand people in the Des Moines metro did not have power. The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives reported outages near Pella and into southeast Iowa.