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These Are the Most Deadly Tornadoes Iowa Has Ever Seen

Even in a state where severe weather isn’t out of the ordinary, the Iowa tornadoes that sprung up on July 19, 2018, still caught residents off guard.

How bad was it? Even weather forecasters weren’t ready for the 27 tornadoes that tore through towns such as Bondurant, Marshalltown, and Pella.

Tornado damage in Joplin, Missouri.

Physical damage from a tornado is just part of the problem. | Julie Denesha/Getty Images

Unfortunately for those affected by the Iowa tornadoes, broken windows, roofless houses, and overturned cars aren’t the only problems. Downed power lines and broken gas lines are some of the unexpected ways tornadoes hurt your health. Plus, the destruction that happens with any natural disaster, whether or not there are deaths, ends up costing Americans billions of dollars.

This round of twisters didn’t result in any reported deaths, according to the Chicago Tribune, but there have been lots of deadly Iowa tornadoes over the years.

Deadly Iowa tornadoes throughout the years

According to the Des Moines Register, at least 15 tornadoes over the years are responsible for multiple deaths.

1. June 3, 1860

Twenty-four people died, and 60 were injured in eastern Iowa near Cedar Rapids.

2. June 3, 1860

An hour after the twisters that hit near Cedar Rapids, more Iowa tornadoes caused 92 deaths in towns near the Mississippi River, including 23 on a raft in the river. This is the most deadly of the Iowa tornadoes on this list.

3. April 21, 1878

A system that produced funnel clouds caused a reported 27 deaths and 69 injuries.

4. June 17, 1882

A huge storm skirted Des Moines but hit Rippey, Grinnell, and Malcolm, causing 68 deaths and 300 injuries.

5. July 6, 1893

A twister that caused 71 deaths and 200 injuries in four counties hit the town of Pomeroy the hardest.

6. Sept. 21, 1894

North-central counties Kossuth, Hancock, and Worth by Iowa tornadoes that left 25 dead.

7. May 24, 1896

Another group of tornadoes that missed Des Moines ravaged the towns of Bondurant, Valeria, and Mingo and caused 21 deaths.

8. May 18, 1898

Livestock (900 dead) had the worst when a twister touched down near the Quad Cities. There were 18 human deaths.

9. March 23, 1913

Council Bluffs in the western part of the state got hit hard by a tornado that resulted in a reported 25 deaths and 75 injuries.

10. Oct. 14, 1966

After nearly five decades of good luck (or unreported twisters), Iowa saw one of its most massive tornadoes. A huge funnel cloud near Belmond caused six deaths, 172 injuries, and destroyed 600 homes.

11. May 15, 1968

A confirmed F-5 twister moved southeast from Charles City to Oelwein and Maynard, resulting in 18 deaths and 606 injuries.

12. Sept. 16, 1978

The towns of Laurel and Grinnell, between Des Moines and Iowa City, saw six deaths and 45 injuries from a tornado.

13. June 28, 1979

An afternoon tornado near Manson resulted in three deaths, 26 injuries, and 110 destroyed homes.

14. May 25, 2008

Tornado touching down in Oklahoma

This is what it looks like when a tornado touches down. | NOAA Photo Library/Getty Images

In one of the most massive Iowa tornadoes of all time, a funnel cloud 1,235 yards wide touched down for 16.5 miles near Aplington and New Hartford. It caused $75 million in damages, but miraculously there were only nine deaths and 50 injuries.

15. June 11, 2008

A tornado that touched down near the western towns of Blencoe and Moorhead left four dead and 48 injured.

When is tornado season, and what to do if one hits

Iowa tornado season peaks in May and June, but as you can see from the list above, twisters can form almost year round. Even though states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have the most tornadoes, Iowa averages 31 per year, according to Iowa State University.

A playground set lays on the ground in the backyard of a home on W. Daisy Place

An outdoor playhouse is not safe if a tornado hits near you. | Jon Durr/Getty Images

If a tornado hits near you, these are a few safety measures you should take, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

  • Avoid windows and head to a basement. Protect yourself with a mattress or heavy blankets, and cover your head.
  • If you don’t have a basement, go to an interior room without windows, under a stairwell, or an interior hallway. Crouch down on your knees and cover your head.
  • In an office building, head to the center of the building (away from glass) and go to the lowest floor.
  • Always evacuate a mobile home.
  • If you’re driving, either drive out of the tornado’s path or park on the side of the road, keep your seatbelt on, and lower and cover your head.

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