74-year-old woman killed as rare overnight tornado sweeps through Iowa

74-year-old woman killed as rare overnight tornado sweeps through Iowa
The Associated Press

A rare, nighttime tornado that was on the ground just eight minutes in Adair Iowa, killed a 74-year-old woman and injured her husband.

The tornado, which occurred about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday was among a swarm of tornadoes that occurred in southwest Iowa, southeast Nebraska, northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri.

A total of 27 unconfirmed tornadoes were reported from storms that swept through the region Tuesday evening into Wednesday.

The National Weather Service in Des Moines confirmed late Wednesday morning that an EF-2 tornado swept through Adair from 1:29 a.m. to 1:37 a.m. Wednesday.

The tornado that killed Linda Brownlee and sent her husband, 78-year-old Harold Brownlee, to a hospital touched down at 1:29 a.m. and lifted at 1:37 a.m., according to the weather service.

No watch or warning had been issued, but a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect.

Adair is 80 miles east of Omaha. Weather service officials said in a preliminary report that the tornado reached peak winds of 120 to 130 mph and had a path length of 4.8 miles and a maximum width of 150 yards.

The Brownlees lived in a home atop a hill, said Robert Kempf, emergency management coordinator for Adair and Guthrie Counties. Three buildings were destroyed at the farm and two nearby houses were damaged, Kempf said.

The weather service says debris from the farmstead landed on nearby Interstate 80, according to the Associated Press.

The weather service in Des Moines surveyed the storm damage Wednesday to confirm that a tornado — and not straight line winds — had occurred and to map a path.

Another tornado had touched down in the area about 25 minutes before the Brownlee residence was struck.

The weather service said an EF-1 tornado with peak winds of 90 to 100 mph occurred about 25 minutes earlier. It was on the ground for about two minutes, traveled 1.1 miles and had a maximum width of about 50 yards. It occurred about two miles southeast of Anita. No one was hurt, but an old barn was demolished.

Since 1980, less than 5 percent of tornadoes that occurred in Iowa happened between midnight and 6 a.m. The majority of tornadoes in the state happened between 2 and 7 p.m.

No one was reported injured in Nebraska.

People in southeast Nebraska got a scare Tuesday night when tornadoes were seen near several towns.

The storm dropped tornadoes on the ground near Dawson, Stella and Auburn before moving out of the area.

The weather service was dispatching damage survey teams Wednesday to confirm the sightings, fine-tune the location, determine the strength and categorize the potential tornadoes.

The first tornado sighting in Nebraska occurred southwest of Dawson in Richardson County at 7:42 p.m., said Cathy Zapotocny, a meteorologist with the weather service in Valley. A second was spotted at 8:07 p.m. one mile north of Stella in Richardson County, she said.

There were also funnel clouds reported in Nemaha County, Nebraska, and between Page and Montgomery Counties in Iowa.

Zapotocny said favorable conditions of warm, moist, unstable air with strong wind shear produced mini super cells, a type of fast-moving storm system that produces short tornadoes.

“These were unique, they weren’t really the classic kind of storms,” Zapotocny said. “They have a different look to them and tend to be brief.”

Looking ahead, Zapotocny said people should be aware of changing weather conditions. There is a slight risk of severe storms on Thursday night and thunderstorms amid higher temperatures forecast on Saturday and Sunday. However, it’s too early to tell which parts of the metro area have the highest risk.

“People will just have to pay attention to the weather as we get closer to the weekend,” she said.