‘Large and extremely dangerous’ tornadoes sweep across Iowa. Minden hit hard.

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By Courtney Crowder, Victoria Reyna-Rodriguez, Des Moines Register

Multiple “large and extremely dangerous” tornadoes touched down across western and central Iowa Friday night, including near Pleasant Hill on the eastern side of the city, according to the National Weather Service.

The town of Minden suffered significant damage, according to state officials. But no fatalities had been reported so far Friday night.

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The storms were part of a strong system that swept eastward across the state, bringing heavy rain and large hail as tornado watches and warnings were issued county by county.

Showers and storms are likely again Saturday, the National Weather Service says, particularly by mid to late afternoon and into the evening. Some storms may be strong to severe, capable of producing large hail and damaging winds — and a few tornadoes cannot be ruled out, particularly in southern and into central Iowa.

Those with outdoor interests are cautioned to have a sheltering plan ready and have multiple ways to receive warning updates, the NWS says.

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2 p.m.: NWS issues tornado watch for several southern Iowa counties

The Des Moines National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for several southern Iowa counties that will be in effect until 9 p.m. Saturday.

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The tornado watch includes the towns of Creston, Centerville, Indianola, Ottumwa, Centerville, and Oskaloosa, among others. The storm system, according to the National Weather Service, is capable of producing a few tornadoes and wind gusts up to 75 MPH. The system could also produce hail up to two inches in diameter.

1:30 p.m.: Polk County officials issue statement on tornado impact

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The Polk County Emergency Management Agency has been out much of Saturday assessing the damage and coordinating resources for residents in need.

Polk County officials are organizing a call for volunteer help in Pleasant Hill. Authorities say monetary donations can be sent to the Polk County and Greater Des Moines Community Foundation disaster recovery fund.

“We are saddened by the widespread damage caused by the tornadoes and storms in Pleasant Hill and across Polk County.” Polk County Board Chair Angela Connolly said in a press release. “Our primary focus right now is on ensuring the safety and well-being of all our residents. We are working closely with local first responders, utility crews, and volunteer organizations to provide assistance and support to those impacted by this disaster.”

1 p.m.: National Weather Service provides statewide damage update

Brooke Hagenhoff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there were at least 10 tornados that swept through central Iowa on April 26. 

Several other tornadoes reportedly touched down in western Iowa near Council Bluffs and the Nebraska border.

Compared to the storm system the state endured earlier in the month, Hagenhoff said Friday night’s storm system was much more robust. 

Chris Franks, a meteorologist for the NWS based in Nebraska, said roughly three tornadoes originated in Omaha and traveled east across Iowa’s border. 

“Right now, it’s pretty good to estimate that there tornadoes that came from Nebraska, or very near the Iowa Nebraska line, and then and then crossed into Iowa,” Franks said. “I will caveat that the damage surveys are still on very much ongoing, in fact, there’s a lot of a lot of damage to survey.”

11:45 a.m.: Tornado destroys homes, power lines in Pleasant Hill

A tornado touched down just west of Pleasant Hill around 9 p.m. Friday, April 26, sweeping across town, injuring one and damaging nearly 20 homes.

Pleasant Hill Fire Department Chief Jamie Xayavong told reporters at an 11 a.m. news conference Saturday that the injury was not life-threatening, though the 18 damaged homes were no longer inhabitable.

The tornado is believed to have touched down near the intersection of Parkridge Avenue and E Oakwood Drive and headed east, toppling several trees and power lines along the way.

Xayavong said storm damage has been reported as far east as NE 80th Street.

The fire chief did not know how strong the tornado was, though it left several other homes with moderate or minor damage. She indicated that more damage reports could come in as recovery continues.

None of the misplaced residents needed emergency shelter, Xayavong said.

11:15 a.m.: Reports of Friday night tornado in Ringgold County in southwest Iowa

A tornado swept through the small southwestern Iowa towns of Tingley and Redding on Friday, April 26, according to Melissa Stark with Ringgold County Emergency Management. Officials believe the tornado developed around 8 p.m. Friday, traveling the entire length of the county and leaving significant damage in its wake.

Stark said residents had little warning, noting that the sirens weren’t triggered until the tornado had developed.

The storm system decimated the Tingley Community Center and devastated the city park.

No injuries have been reported.

11 a.m.: Creston recovering from storm damage

U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn said he was headed to Creston to meet with the Union County Sheriff to tour the community and offer his support.

The storm damaged portions of the Homestead Assisted Living’s roof in the northwest part of town. Several windows and the main entrance also suffered damage. A private home in Creston was also damaged in the storm.

“Iowa just emerged from a horrible event that occurred many of our communities last night. In fact, we’re headed down to Union County next to help take care of Creston and the communities that were impacted by horrible storms and tornadoes that ravaged the state of Iowa,” he said at a campaign event Saturday morning. “Our prayers not only are with Minden but those communities in Nebraska where we’ve flown flight operations out of. They’re just decimated. And so this morning as we think about what we need to do, it should always be about how do we help those communities in need.”

U.S. Highway 34 between Creston and Afton was closed Friday night due because debris blocked the road, according to Iowa 511.

11 a.m.: Where is Minden, Iowa?

Minden is located on the western side of Iowa. It’s about a 30-mile drive from Omaha, Nebraska, depending on the route taken, according to Google Maps. The town was settled in 1875 by German immigrants, according to Travel Iowa.

The town of about 600 faced damage to homes, cars and trees after a tornado swept through Friday, April 26. Pottawattamie County officials confirmed four injuries as of Saturday morning, according to KETV.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for the county in response, which activated the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program and the Disaster Case Advocacy Program.

The Disaster Case Advocacy program provides up to $5,000 in grants for households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level.

10:45 a.m.: Tiny Minden, Iowa, riddled with debris after tornado smashes through town Friday

Many houses, cars, and trees in Minden have been destroyed after a tornado devastated the southwestern Iowa town of roughly 600 people Friday evening, April 26.

Access to the town was shut off Saturday because of the destruction.

Drivers trying to pass through Minden Saturday morning were being redirected as workers tried to clean up wholesale debris left behind.

For Austin Ehlers, a firefighter in Persia, a city just about 15 minutes away from Minden, the tornado demolished his grandfather’s home.

“He lives just outside of Minden, right in the path where the tornado took,” Ehlers said. “After we cleared everything in Persia, we hoped in the trucks and went to Minden and helped. I found out my grandpa’s house was completely gone, and he’s basically lost everything.”

10:30 a.m.: Are more tornadoes headed for Iowa? The National Weather Service forecast

Is another round of tornadoes heading to Iowa?

One day after bands of tornadoes swept through western and central Iowa Friday, the National Weather Service is warning of the possibility of strong to severe storms Saturday afternoon through the evening.

“All severe weather hazards are possible, but hail and damaging winds are the primary threats,” the National Weather Service in Des Moines reported.

Showers and storms continue into Sunday, along with the potential for more strong to severe storms Sunday afternoon and evening, the NWS said.

“The extent of the threat and most likely hazards remains uncertain at this time,” it posted.

The NWS warned that spotter activation may be needed later Saturday and Sunday.

Chances for showers and storms return Tuesday into Tuesday night, and again late in the week. The severe weather threat is uncertain and will be evaluated in the coming days.

Preparing for a storm

With the potential for more severe weather, it’s good to be prepared. Make sure you have a plan in place. Here are five things you should know to be prepared for a weather emergency.

6:15 a.m.: At least 10 tornadoes hit central Iowa, National Weather Service says

The National Weather Service in Des Moines posted early Saturday morning that preliminary reports indicate at least 10 tornadoes struck central Iowa in the April 26 storm front, based on initial damage information.

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