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Rudd hit hardest by fast-moving Wednesday evening storms

Rudd hit hardest by fast-moving Wednesday evening storms
Volunteers help clear out the books and other materials from the Rudd Public Library after a tornado Wednesday evening ripped the roof off the building. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

A tornado with 110 mph winds struck Rudd Wednesday evening, ripping the roof off the public library, destroying an old church used by the Rudd Historical Society and damaging several other buildings and residences in the community.

A steady line of volunteers removed books from the library shelves Thursday morning, putting them in boxes then carrying them to waiting pickups to be taken away to safe storage.

Drew Mitchell, Floyd County emergency management director, was in Rudd Thursday. He said there was some damage in several places throughout the county from Wednesday night’s storms, but the most damage appeared to be there in that community.

“Damage in the county is mostly in the west half. Floyd had a few trees and power lines down, some semis tipped over at Love’s. Other than that not a lot,” he said.

“Marble Rock had some power lines down, trees down. They were out of power for a little bit. Along Highway 14 south and southeast of Marble Rock there are some properties that got hit pretty good, with the out buildings,” he said.

“Around Rockford got hit a little bit with some property damage, and then obviously the bulk of it is here in Rudd with what we assume was a tornado that went through town,” Mitchell said.

He said he didn’t have an exact number of structures damaged in Rudd.

“A few houses did get hit. I know one house did get their roof taken off. Some trees landed on some houses. More businesses. City Hall got hit just a little bit. The library got pretty heavy damage. Some grain bins downtown got hit,” he said.

The former church building used by the Rudd Historical Society was destroyed, scattering or wrecking part of the group’s collections, he said.

Wednesday evening, a little before midnight, Mitchell had posted on the Floyd County EMA Facebook page, “Rudd was hit by a tornado tonight. Power lines and trees are down. Some buildings were heavily damaged. The water treatment plant was also hit. As of now, Rudd will be without power and water for a few days. Anyone willing to help with the clean up, report to the Rudd fire department tomorrow morning (Thursday) at 9 am. Please pass the word!”

Dozens of volunteers as well as power companies, tree removal companies and construction contractors were in town Thursday, helping with the cleanup, fixup and sorting out what needed to be done next.

Mitchell said the National Weather Service would send investigators to evaluate the damage and determine if it was a tornado that struck the town.

The National Weather Service issued its determination Thursday afternoon than an EF-1 tornado with 110 mph peak winds touched down for eight-tenths of a mile through Rudd beginning at 6:58 p.m.

It also said an EF-0 tornado with peak winds of 85 mph touched down for 5.4 miles near Elma, damaging farm equipment and trees.

Mitchell said Thursday that Rudd had enough help, but “obviously the more help the better.”

“We can always use more help, but that’s why I like rural Iowa. We’ve got a lot of help and a lot of good help. I imagine we will still need some help Friday. Report to the fire station, sign in and we’ll disperse them wherever needed,” he said.

The Historical Society was especially looking for help, he said, to try to salvage as much of its collection as it can.

“Some of those things can’t be replaced,” he said.

Mitchell said he was not aware of anyone needing help with housing. The Red Cross was coming and would help with cleanup and providing other aid as needed.

Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock School District called off classes Thursday so students could be available to help with clean-up efforts, the school reported.

“The RRMR school building will be open for showers, warmth and meals,” the school said on its Facebook page. “Showers will be open at 7 AM. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 – 9:30 AM. Lunch will be served from 11 AM until 2 PM. All are welcome to come and share our facilities and meals. Staff are invited to help at the school building or to lead helper groups in the clean up efforts.”

A little before 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Charles City Police Department had posted on its Facebook page, “We are sounding the outdoor warning system at this time time due to a 75-mile-an-hour traveling storm that is by Marble Rock with rotation. Please take shelter at this time.”

About 10 minutes later the Police Department posted, “Hail now. It appears the rotation is going to go west of us. Mason City airport just recorded 80+ mph winds in between the two lines of storms. This is the first line we are experiencing.”

As of Thursday afternoon, almost 18% of the electrical customers in Floyd County were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. Alliant reported 718 customers without power, Butler County REC reported 542 customers, MidAmerican reported 121 without power and Heartland Power Coop reported 6 without power, out of a total 4,781 customers among them.

The National Weather Service described the storm as “a rare December severe weather event.”

“Not only was this one of the highest threats for severe weather so late in the year, but shattered records for number of warnings so late in the season and broke all-time December temperature records,” NWS said.

“The storm posed two threats. A line of severe thunderstorms brought pockets of wind damage (60-90 mph) along with the possibility of several tornadoes. The storms were moving very rapidly. After the storms passed, strong winds buffeted the region with fairly widespread 60-80 mph wind gusts,” it said.

“All in all, numerous communities suffered structure damage, power outages and sporadic tree/branch damage. Damage surveys are on-going.”

Charles City recorded peak wind gusts of 61 mph. The high for the day Wednesday was 68, setting a new record.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for 43 counties Thursday, including Floyd County and the neighboring counties of Chickasaw, Howard, Mitchell, Worth, Cerro Gordo, Franklin, Bremer and Butler.

The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.

Residents of counties impacted by the recent severe weather are asked to report damage to help local and state officials better understand the damage sustained. Damage to property, roads, utilities and other storm-related information may be reported. This information will be collected by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and shared with local emergency management agencies. Damage may be reported at www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov.

State forestry experts are encouraging Iowans to proceed with caution as they begin cleaning up the tree damage from Wednesday’s storm.

Emma Hanigan, urban forestry coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, suggests homeowners hire a tree care professional if they do not have the experience, ability, and equipment to safely prune their own tree.

Homeowners planning to do their own tree cleanup should wear safety equipment, including hand, foot, leg, eye, face, hearing and head protection, and avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes while using a chainsaw.

“Be careful when working with trees and limbs that are snapped off, twisted and tangled together,” warns Hanigan. “The trunk or tree limbs may bind against the chainsaw.”

After cleanup is complete, homeowners wanting to have their trees inspected should contact a professional, insured arborist. The arborist can examine trees for cracks or other issues that might have been overlooked. Routine tree care of young trees makes them more resilient long term and decreases the likelihood of storm-related damage.

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