116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Two tornadoes confirmed in Iowa Monday afternoon
Two tornadoes touched down in Iowa Monday afternoon. They were the first January tornadoes Iowa has seen in more than 50 years, according to the National Weather Service Quad Cities Office.
The first tornado touched down two miles northeast of Williamsburg at 2:01 p.m. and lasted until 2:09 p.m. It traveled northeast for 4.7 miles, with a peak wind speed of 90 mph.
It was rated a 1, or EF1, on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The tornado caused minor damage to a cattle shelter and tree damage at a farmstead west of Highway 151. It also blew a semi-trailer over on Interstate 80, according to NWS Meteorologist Tim Gross.
The second tornado, observed by a storm chaser, touched down only briefly. It was spotted north of Ely, and didn’t cause any observable damage, Gross said. It was rated EFU because its peak wind speed and path length and width are unknown.
The tornadoes were caused by a combination of factors that are rare for this time of year, Gross said. The skies started to clear in the early afternoon, causing the temperature to increase to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. There was a low pressure system in the area at the same time, causing increased wind shear.
“All of these ingredients came into place at the exact time that we were developing some very low-topped thunderstorms,” Gross said. “It is a very rare event. Something that you don’t normally see, of course, in January.”
In addition to the tornado, there were reports of hail in Eastern Iowa, including 1 inch in Homestead, and 3/4 of an inch near Shueyville. Quarter-inch hail was reported in Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Lisbon and Manchester.
The last time Iowa saw a tornado in January was Jan. 24, 1967. Multiple tornadoes, rated F2 and higher, were reported on that day across northern Missouri, Eastern Iowa, northwest and central Illinois, according to the NWS.
The Gazette reported that a 3-year-old, Bryon Swyter, was killed when a tornado wrecked his parents’ home in rural Fort Madison. His parents and 2-year-old brother, as well as three other people were injured in the storm.
Cedar Rapids was spared from the brunt of the 1967 storms, according to The Gazette archives. The city experienced record high temperatures of almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and saw rain and hail.
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