A powerful storm front that passed through Northwest Iowa on Saturday spared much of Cherokee County; howver, a possible tornado or high winds demolished the vacant Circle 7 hog farm located in Spring Township in Cherokee County two miles west of U.S. Highway 59 on 630th St.
Cherokee County Emergency Manager Ben Shuberg stated that there were a few other farms that were damaged on Saturday resulting in a couple of grain bins toppled, along with a tractor-trailer truck overturned near the same location.
In addition, the National Weather Service has confirmed 10 tornadoes in Iowa from the 27 that were reported.
The most severe struck Mapleton in Monona County in western Iowa around 7:20 p.m. Saturday. Authorities say it destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes and injured more than a dozen people, but there were no fatalities.
The weather service's Davenport office reported no twisters overnight Sunday or early on Monday, despite ripe conditions.
Residents of a small Iowa town had 15 minutes of warning before a tornado leveled more than half their community -- a critical advantage in preventing any deaths or serious injuries, authorities said Monday.
The storm barreled through Mapleton on Saturday night with winds of more than 130 mph. But the worst injury was a mere broken leg.
Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said he and his deputies, along with trained storm spotters, tracked the twister across the countryside and notified communities in its path to blow their warning sirens earlier than normal. That let people scramble into basements or seek other shelter.
Anytime a powerful tornado hits "and you don't have any serious injuries or deaths, you're lucky," Pratt said. "We are just very fortunate."
Barbara Mayes, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Omaha, Neb., said scientists realized two to three days in advance that there was strong chance of severe weather developing Saturday. That early notice, combined with the visual sightings and real-time weather reports, created a best-case scenario.
"This is a good example of the process working like we want it to," Mayes said.
About 100 homes in the town of 1,200 people were destroyed. An estimated 600 people were displaced. At least 14 people suffered minor injuries.
The low number of injuries was also surprising because a high school play was being performed in Mapleton when the storm struck. The building's roof was damaged, and windows were blown out. Classes were canceled Monday as workers began repairs.
On Monday, volunteers streamed into town to begin cleaning up downed trees and rubble.
Volunteers were coming from all over Iowa, including Parkersburg, a northeast Iowa town that was leveled by a tornado in May 2008, the sheriff said.
Eight people were killed by that storm, which had winds in excess of 200 mph. A month later, a tornado with winds of 145 mph struck a Boy Scout camp in southwest Iowa, killing four scouts.
Tammy Pech, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Sioux City, said damage-assessment teams were beginning to go street by street in Mapleton and other areas affected by Saturday's storms.
The National Weather Service confirmed at least eight tornadoes touched down Saturday in Iowa.
The same storm that produced the Mapleton twister also caused tornadoes that touched down in Sac, Pocahontas and Kossuth counties as it moved to the northeast. Damage was reported to numerous homes, farm buildings and power lines.
"What was interesting about this is we had crossing (damage) paths," said Jeff Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Johnston, Iowa. "It was a very complex system. So many things moving in different directions."