Photo Gallery 3 Images
NWS Des Moines --
During the late afternoon and early evening of May 15, 1968, five tornadoes (two F1s, one F2, and two F5s) occurred in Iowa. These tornadoes were part of a widespread outbreak (39 tornadoes) which impacted ten states. In Iowa, the tornadoes caused 18 fatalities and 619 injuries. Since this outbreak, no other tornadoes have produced this many deaths or injuries in Iowa.
There have only been two other F5 or EF5 tornadoes in Iowa since 1968 (Jordan - June 13, 1976, and Parkersburg - May 25, 2008).
Details on the tornado: Tornado first sighted passing over a farmstead northeast of Hansell. It moved over the east edge of Aredale. Two funnels were simultaneously sighted at Aerdale. A funnel was observed to lift at Marble Rock. A continuous tornado path and associated tornado sightings were reported from east of Marble Rock to Charles City. The northeastward path of the tornado became northward as it swept through downtown Charles City at 4:47 PM CDT and then recurving as it left Charles City to move northeast to Elma, passing northeastward across Elma and thence moving north-northeast to Highway 9 and finally north and northwest as it dissipated south of Chester. The greatest losses were in Charles City where 13 persons were killed, 450 injured of which 76 were hospitalized. 337 homes were completely destroyed and 1565 families in Charles City were affected by the tornado. Losses were estimated up to 30 million dollars. In Elma 12 persons were injured, 3 hospitalized and damage estimated at 1.5 million dollars. Additionally many farmsteads and rural homes were damaged or destroyed. The tornado entered Elma at 5:25 PM CDT and continued to a point 14 miles north of Elma where its destructive path ended.