Iowa governor issues disaster proclamation following tornadoes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s governor has issued a disaster proclamation for four counties hit by tornadoes.

The move by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday allows state resources to be used to help the cleanup after tornadoes swept through the state Thursday.

The storms caused extensive damage in Lee, Marshall, Polk and Van Buren counties. Officials say 17 people were injured.

Reynolds also issued an order Thursday that lets commercial drivers work longer hours if they are aiding in cleanup and recovery efforts.

The National Weather Service says at least one of the destructive tornadoes that swept through central Iowa was an EF3 twister with sustained winds of about 144 mph.

The agency said Friday that at least five tornadoes touched down Thursday afternoon and swept through three cities.

The EF3 tornado hit Pella and caused significant damage at a large manufacturing complex.

Hundreds of employees were at the Vermeer Corp. complex when the storm hit, as were 400 customers and dealers.

Several buildings suffered significant damage, and the plant’s waste management facility was destroyed.

But only seven people were hurt, and all suffered minor injuries.

Vermeer spokesman Ryan Benbo credited employees’ efforts to quickly get people into designated safe areas.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson says the agency is still working to determine how many tornadoes hit the region. He says researchers will use satellite data, drone footage and other information.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson said Friday that it will take days to determine the strength and total number of the twisters that hit three towns on Thursday afternoon.

Johnson says there were reports of more than two dozen tornadoes, but that they all likely stem from the same handful of twisters.

Johnson says survey teams are examining damage in Marshalltown and other locations where the tornadoes hit to determine the tornadoes’ strength.

He says forecasters had hoped to make a determination by Friday evening.

Marshalltown appeared to have been hit the hardest. Brick walls collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of a historic courthouse tumbled to the ground. The city’s only hospital also was damaged, and about 40 patients were transferred.

Some buildings at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown sustained roof damage when a tornado hit the city northeast of Des Moines on Thursday.

Commandant Timon Oujiri says the facility housing nearly 500 residents lost power, but that no residents or staffers were injured. He says generators are now powering the buildings.

Alliant Energy says more than 5,800 customers were without power in Marshalltown, and that natural gas service had been shut down in part of the city.

Crews have been dispatched to repair damage and assess which areas can have gas service safely restored.