Several structures were damaged and others ruined last weekend after two tornadoes touched down outside Oakville in southeast Iowa, their paths creating a combined 3 miles of destruction.
The tornadoes came out of storms that rolled through Des Moines County on Saturday night.
An EF2 tornado touched down at 8:20 p.m. 3 miles southwest of Oakville, damaging trees and the roof of a rural home between Oakville and Mediapolis.
“It was like your head was in a dryer, just thundering around you, like a bunch of horses just thundering,” said Liz Harvey, who waited out the storm with her husband and two children in the bathroom of their home.
Harvey had been in the bathroom with her 2-year-old daughter, Violet, when it started to rain. Her husband, Tyson, and 5-year-old son, Dexter, were at the other end of the house.
Tyson Harvey saw the 4-by-7-foot doghouse outside their home shoot straight up into the air. He didn’t wait for it to drop back down before running to the bathroom — the safest room in the house — with Dexter. They remained there until the storm passed.
Eager to see the storm, Liz and Tyson Harvey poked their heads outside the door.
“It wasn’t one of the pretty, perfect twisters,” Liz Harvey said. “It was a huge wall of dust just circling around.”
The tornado wasn’t quite finished yet, however, and a piece of glass flew into Liz Harvey’s eye. Her husband was able to remove it using a Q-tip.
The damage to Liz Harvey’s eye was minimal, but the same could not be said for the home.
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The couple could see pieces of their roof stuck in trees and fields. Rain had soaked the carpet. Their lawn mower also was destroyed.
In the midst of working to build their dream home, the Harveys had not yet obtained homeowners’ insurance.
While the damage to her home couldn’t have come at a worse time because of recent financial struggles, Liz Harvey is grateful no one was hurt.
“We are very, very glad that we’re safe and healthy,” she said.
The tornado continued east as it passed by the Harveys’ home, gaining strength and damaging more trees and the siding on another home.
As it reached its peak strength at 120 mph, it destroyed a farm outbuilding and caused significant damage to a home, moving it off its foundation, blowing out windows and destroying a bolted-down garage.
The residents of that home were in the basement, and no one was injured, according to Tom Philip, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities.
The tornado also threw two pieces of farm equipment 40 yards, moved a pickup truck about 20 yards and snapped three power poles. It traveled almost 2 miles in six minutes.
Another tornado, also an EF2, touched down at 8:24 p.m. about 3 miles southwest of Oakville, just east of the other one and traveling nearly parallel to it.
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It damaged trees and the roof of a mobile home. It strengthened as it moved east, destroying a farm building, downing a high power transmission line and damaging a home. It was on the ground for four minutes and traveled about a mile, Philip said.
The tornadoes came out of a supercell thunderstorm that merged with another line of storms, enhancing rotation and resulting in the tornadoes, he said.
Philip said it is not uncommon for two tornadoes to spawn in the same area from the same storm.
“They call it a cyclic storm,” Philip said. “It will form one (tornado) and then it diminishes and another will form.”
The first tornado of the evening was the weakest — an EF0 with peak winds of 70 mph. It touched down in an open field west of Mediapolis at 7:54 p.m., traveling less than a mile, lasting two minutes and causing no damage.
Iowa has seen its share of severe weather this spring. One storm system May 27 dropped two tornadoes in southeast Iowa — an EF3 in Van Buren County and an EF1 in Lee County. A third, weaker tornado touched down that same day in Spring Grove, just south of Burlington.
Philip said this season isn’t more active than usual for southeast Iowa. If anything, he said, tornado season got off to a late start because of a lingering winter and cooler than usual temperatures.