Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017 (2024)

The town of Greenfield, Iowa, resembled a war zone on Thursday with uprooted trees and overturned cars in all directions and splintered wood that was once part of homes and businesses. Residents searched for belongings and family heirlooms in the rubble left by a devastating tornado that ripped through the community, killing four people.

A swarm of at least 26 twisters roared through Greenfield and other parts of Iowa and five other Midwestern states on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. The funnel cloud that tore through Greenfield was confirmed by the National Weather Service to be an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with maximum wind speeds reaching 185 mph. It was on the ground for approximately 44 miles.

A fifth person was killed in what is believed to be a tornado-related incident about 25 miles from Greenfield, officials said.

Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017 (1)

Besides those killed, 35 people were injured in Greenfield, which is about 60 miles southwest of Des Moines.


Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday that at least 202 homes in Iowa were destroyed or sustained major damage. She said she expanded a disaster declaration from 15 to 32 counties and has submitted an application for disaster relief to FEMA and the White House.

"Hearing the stories from residents who barely escaped with their lives is both heartbreaking and inspiring," Reynolds said. "Our deepest condolences go out to those who lost loved ones."

Donna Dubberke, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, said the agency surveyed three separate long-track tornadoes that left destructive paths totaling 130 miles. Dubberke said Iowa was in store for more severe weather Thursday night.

"It's very heartbreaking," Greenfield resident Cam Harter told ABC News as she and her husband, Jay Harter, sifted through the rubble of their home of 26 years.

"These are the stairs that led to the basem*nt," Cam Harter pointed out. "The whole top part is gone. The garage back there, a two-and-a-half car garage, is gone."

Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017 (2)

Even metal grain silos could not withstand the powerful storm, leaving many of them crumpled as if they were tin cans. Several towering wind turbines were also knocked over, including one that caught on fire.

Joan Newall stood near her destroyed Greenfield home of more than 50 years as she told ABC News that when the twister hit, she took shelter in the basem*nt, where search-and-rescue crews found her and pulled her to safety.

She said four of her neighbors did not survive.

“Their house had no basem*nt," Newall said.

Throughout Greenfield Thursday, an army of electrical crews worked to restore power. Search-and-rescue teams combed the town for possible survivors, marking homes and vehicles with spray paint indicating they had been searched and cleared.

According to the National Weather Service, at least 21 of the 26 reported tornadoes spawned by severe weather on Tuesday struck Iowa between 5:44 p.m. and 11 p.m. CT.

So far there have been four confirmed tornadoes in Iowa -- including the EF-4 in Greenfield as well as an EF-3 in Carbon, which had winds up to 150 mph -- based on preliminary figures from the National Weather Service.

Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017 (3)

The only hospital serving Greenfield, the Adair County Health System (ACHS), sustained substantial damage, forcing the evacuation of staff and patients and the closure of the facility, hospital officials said.

"There were no injuries to staff or patients inside the hospital during the storm," officials said in a statement. "The hospital was closed immediately after the tornado passed through that devastated the town of Greenfield. It will remain closed until further assessments can be completed. It is likely to take weeks, if not months, to fully repair the damage."

Hospital staff have set up a temporary hospital for primary care services at an elementary school and high school on Thursday. The city of Temple in Bell County suffered the brunt of the tornado damage, officials said.

The severe weather continued Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, spawning tornadoes in central Texas. The City of Temple, Texas, took the brunt of the storm, where a tornado rated EF-2 with maximum winds of 120 mph was confirmed.

Dozens of homes, businesses and structures in Temple were damaged or destroyed, officials said. The storms took off the roofs of at least 30 homes in Temple, knocked down numerous powerlines and pulled up trees across the city.

Temple residents Abbie Rurup and Gavin Ethridge told ABC affiliate station KVUE in Austin that at one point during Wednesday's storm the floors, walls and ceiling of her home were shaking, prompting them to take shelter in a backroom closet.

"Whenever I first walked out of the house, [a] whole side row of houses and their roofs were almost completely gone," Rurup said. "I just broke down."

Ethridge said windows of their kitchen and living room were blown out during the chaotic weather event and a powerline fell across their backyard.

"You always like to hear about it and see it in movies. But for it to actually happen here… definitely just happy and blessed that we're OK," Ethridge said.

Shadavia Blakemore told KVUE that the ceiling of her apartment caved in during the storm.

MORE: NOAA predicts record hurricane season for 2024

“I mean it was just loud, the wind kept picking up and it was just harder than what I normally hear," Blakemore explained. "It started sounding like a train and the winds just got too heavy and like I knew a tornado [was] outside."

Blakemore said she immediately packed some belongings and went to her mother's nearby home to ride out the storm.

"I am upset because I have to leave my apartment and it's caved in," Blakemore added. "I guess it's bittersweet because I mean, my lease is about to be up. We’re safe, that’s the most important thing.”

More than 200 severe storms were reported Wednesday from New York to Texas.

2024 has been the most active tornado season to date since 2017 with 859 tornadoes reported so far. The average number of tornadoes from January to May this year is 578.

More severe weather is forecast through the Memorial Day weekend for a huge part of the Heartland from the Dakotas all the way south to Texas, including the major cities of Dallas, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Omaha and Fargo.

Damaging winds and large hail will be the biggest threat on Friday but the possibility of a few potential tornadoes cannot be ruled out from northern Texas to Nebraska.

On Friday, severe weather is expected from Dallas to Chicago with damaging winds and hail being the biggest possible threat.

On Saturday, severe weather is forecast from Dallas to Lincoln, Nebraska, and a tornado threat is expected to increase.

Looking ahead, severe weather could also continue into Sunday and possibly this Memorial Day.

Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017 originally appeared on

Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017 (2024)


Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017? ›

Shattered towns pick up the pieces as 2024 stacks up to be the most active tornado season since 2017. There were over 200 severe storm reports from New York to Texas on Wednesday. At least 100,000 customers were left without power in Texas after tornadoes touched down overnight.

How many tornadoes in 2024? ›

NCEI is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These tornadoes included 62 EF-U, 220 EF-0, 327 EF-1, 78 EF-2, 16 EF-3 and two EF-4 (four have been confirmed but are yet to be rated).

What is the place with the most tornadoes called? ›

Most tornadoes are found in the Great Plains of the central United States – an ideal environment for the formation of severe thunderstorms. In this area, known as Tornado Alley, storms are caused when dry cold air moving south from Canada meets warm moist air traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the heaviest thing lifted by a tornado? ›

Pampa Tornado (1995): This tornado lifted a 35,000 lb (15,876 kg) lathe [1].

Is Ohio part of Tornado Alley? ›

As a colloquial term there are no definitively set boundaries of Tornado Alley, but the area common to most definitions extends from Texas, through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota, Montana, Ohio, and eastern portions of Colorado ...

Will 2024 be a bad tornado year? ›

More than 200 severe storms were reported Wednesday from New York to Texas. 2024 has been the most active tornado season to date since 2017 with 859 tornadoes reported so far. The average number of tornadoes from January to May this year is 578.

What state has had the most tornadoes in 2024? ›

As of the latest data released April 18, Ohio has seen more tornadoes in 2024 than its entire yearly average. OHIO, USA — Ohio's tornado count is leading the nation and continues to climb. Typically each year, Ohio will see on average 21 tornadoes. That total was surpassed in early April.

What state has never had a tornado? ›

Tornadoes have been documented in every U.S. state (not including the non-state territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico) at least once since 1950, although some regions and states are hit by tornadoes far more than others.

What's the worst tornado in US history? ›

This article lists various tornado records. The most "extreme" tornado in recorded history was the Tri-State tornado, which spread through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925.

Is the Tornado Alley shifting? ›

Tornado Alley is expanding, scientists say

The geographic location with the most frequent tornado activity tends to change year over year, Houser told ABC News. One year the Southeast may get slammed with tornadoes, while another year the activity could be concentrated further west, she added.

What is a F12 tornado? ›

An F12 tornado would have winds of about 740 MPH, the speed of sound. Roughly 3/4 of all tornadoes are EF0 or EF1 tornadoes and have winds that are less than 100 MPH. EF4 and EF5 tornadoes are rare but cause the majority of tornado deaths.

Has there ever been an F6? ›

In total, two tornadoes received the rating of F6, but both were later downgraded to F5. Based on aerial photographs of the damage it caused, Fujita assigned the strongest tornado of the 1974 Super Outbreak, which affected Xenia, Ohio, a preliminary rating of F6 intensity ± 1 scale.

What tornado killed the most people? ›

On March 18, 1925, the deadliest single tornado in the history of the United States occurred. The enormous storm affected people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, hence the name. As a result, almost 700 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured.

Is Ohio in Tornado Alley 2024? ›

Ohio is the new tornado capital (so far in 2024), tornado alley slowly sliding eastward. Ohio has emerged as the state with the highest tornado count this year, recording 42 tornadoes so far. This includes the twisters from the April 17 storms, surpassing the preliminary count of 35 tornadoes reported earlier.

Why is Ohio having so many tornadoes? ›

Tornadoes are often a result of retreating cool air and incoming warm air chasing each other with a combination of some sort of moisture. In Ohio's case this year, the moisture is coming from the Gulf of Mexico.

What part of Ohio gets the most tornadoes? ›

From 1875 through 1899, 150 Ohio tornadoes are recorded. Since the turn of the century, 353 tornadoes have been reported within the state. Of these, 40 percent occurred within the western third, 34 per- cent in the central third, and 26 percent in the eastern third of the state.

Have there been any natural disasters in 2024? ›

In 2024 (as of May 8), there have been 7 confirmed weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each to affect United States. These events included 5 severe storm events and 2 winter storm events.

Are the number of tornadoes increasing? ›

But looking coldly at the data, National Geographic says, “There is no real evidence that tornadoes are happening more often. A lot more are being recorded now than in 1950, but a closer look at the data shows the increase is only in the weakest category, EF0.

What was the most recent tornado in 2024? ›

Greenfield tornado before-and-after images

GREENFIELD, Iowa – A severe weather outbreak that spawned supercells across the Plains and Midwest on Tuesday is believed to have produced the strongest tornado of the year to impact the U.S., with estimated winds of 175-185 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

When was the latest tornado in 2024? ›

This past week, Nebraska and Iowa experienced several waves of severe weather that produced tornadoes, wind damage, hail, and flooding. Below is a recap of what we experienced during the waves of severe weather from Monday evening to Tuesday afternoon.

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