Tornadoes sweep through Iowa; major damage, some injuries

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A flurry of tornadoes swept through central Iowa Thursday afternoon, flattening buildings and damaging the courthouse in Marshalltown and hitting an agricultural machinery plant in Pella as people were working. Authorities said a hospital was evacuated and there were some injuries from the storms.

Hardest hit appeared to be Marshalltown, a city of 27,000 people about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Des Moines, where brick walls collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of the historic courthouse tumbled 175 feet (53 meters) to the ground.

UnityPoint Health hospital in Marshalltown was damaged, spokeswoman Amy Varcoe said.

Varcoe said all 40 of its patients were being transferred to the health system’s hospitals in Waterloo and Grundy Center.

The Marshalltown hospital’s emergency room remained open to treat patients injured in the storm, Varcoe said. Ten people injured in the storm had been treated by 7 p.m. Thursday, she said. She did not know how serious those patients’ injuries were.

Another tornado hit agricultural machinery maker Vermeer Manufacturing, where some people were still working, in the town of Pella, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines. It scattered huge sheets of metal through a parking lot and left one building with a huge hole in it.

Pella Police Lt. Shane Cox told television station KCCI-TV that some people from the plant were taken to a hospital, but he didn’t know the extent of injuries or the number of people. Emergency responders were attempting to get inside the damaged building to see if anyone was trapped.

Weather forecasters said the tornadoes formed suddenly and took them by surprise.

Alex Krull, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said that forecasting models produced Thursday morning showed only a slight chance of strong thunderstorms later in the day.

“This morning, it didn’t look like tornadic supercells were possible,” Krull said. “If anything, we were expecting we could get some large hail, if strong storms developed

Additional funnels were reported as the storm moved east of Des Moines past Altoona, Prairie City and Colfax.

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AP writer Margery Beck in Omaha contributed to the story.

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For The Latest on the tornadoes: https://www.apnews.com/25b4934564644a4ba91b02caddcd026c

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