Grinnell, IA Tornado Damage, Sep 1978
DEADLY TORNADOS TAKE GRINNELL AREA BY SURPRISE.
By The Associated Press.
The death toll had risen to at least seven by midnight Saturday in a pair of tornados that struck without warning in Jasper and Poweshiek sounties in central Iowa.
At least five persons were confirmed dead and more than 40 others injured in a tornado that swept through a motel and business complex at the junction of Interstate 80 and Iowa 146 two miles south of Grinnell about 9:10 p.m.
The Iowa State Patrol said at least two others, believed to be a married couple, were killed minutes later when another funnel ripped through a farm home south of Laurel, located about 15 miles northwest of Grinnell.
The identities of the dead were not immediately available early Sunday as the search continued in both areas for more victims.
Several persons were reported injured or missing, particularly in the Grinnell area where the storm knocked out power for nearly an hour.
Power lines and trees were downed across several miles of road leading to both of the heavily damaged areas. The patrol said drivers were advised not to attempt travel in or around the storm sites.
Much of the wreckage at the Grinnell interchange involved vehicles.
A farm combine was upended, a fully loaded semi- trailer was blown over on its side and cars were smashed beyond recognition.
"I wonder what that one was," said one person surveying the damage.
About 100 persons who were in a restaurant in the business complex were taken to the American Legion Hall in Grinnell by rescuers.
Several persons were injured by flying glass and debris.
"There were 100 people in that restaurant -- one woman was cut by glass. It's lucky they were in there," said BURT DAVIS of the New Sharon Fire Department.
"Look over here -- it (the tornado) ripped a motor right of the car," DAVIS said.
"Somebody called me at my house and said a tornado hit," said Grinnell Fire Chief BILL PETERS. "I had my wife and kid with me. I told them to hit the deck and I jumped in my car and came out."
The storm continued to move southward into Mahaska County and a tornado reportedly struck the JOSEPH SMITH home near Beacon. There were reports of considerable damage in Oskaloosa.
The National Weather Service office in Des Moines offered no tornado warnings in advance of the storms, but had issued several severe thunderstorms warnings statewide through the evening.
Northeast Iowa apparently escaped serious storm damage, according to reports from law enforcement and weather service officials in Black Hawk and surrounding counties.
Waterloo Courier Iowa 1978-09-17