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The Latest: Iowa governor issues disaster proclamation

July 20, 2018
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A local resident runs past a tornado-damaged building on Main Street, Thursday, July 19, 2018, in Marshalltown, Iowa. Several buildings were damaged by a tornado in the main business district in town including the historic courthouse. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Latest on the swarm of destructive tornadoes that swept through central Iowa (all times local):

6 p.m.

Iowa’s governor has issued a disaster proclamation for four counties hit by tornadoes.

The move by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday allows state resources to be used to help the cleanup after tornadoes swept through the state Thursday. The storms caused extensive damage in Lee, Marshall, Polk and Van Buren counties.

Officials say 17 people were injured.

Reynolds also issued an order Thursday that lets commercial drivers work longer hours if they are aiding in cleanup and recovery efforts.

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5 p.m.

The National Weather Service says at least one of the destructive tornadoes that swept through central Iowa was an EF3 twister with sustained winds of about 144 mph (232 kph).

The agency said Friday that at least five tornadoes touched down Thursday afternoon and swept through three cities. The EF3 tornado hit Pella and caused significant damage at a large manufacturing complex.

Hundreds of employees were at the Vermeer Corp. complex when the storm hit, as were 400 customers and dealers. Several buildings suffered significant damage, and the plant’s waste management facility was destroyed.

But only seven people were hurt, and all suffered minor injuries. Vermeer spokesman Ryan Benbo credited employees’ efforts to quickly get people into designated safe areas.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson says the agency is still working to determine how many tornadoes hit the region. He says researchers will use satellite data, drone footage and other information.

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12:05 p.m.

Forecasters say at least five tornadoes touched down as an unexpected swarm of destructive storms hit central Iowa.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Johnson said Friday that it will take days to determine the strength and total number of the twisters that hit three town on Thursday afternoon.

The storms injured at least 17 people , flattened buildings and forced the evacuation of a hospital.

Johnson says there were reports of more than two dozen tornadoes, but that they all likely stem from the same handful of twisters.

Johnson says survey teams are examining damage in Marshalltown and other locations where the tornadoes hit to determine the tornadoes’ strength. He says forecasters hope to make a determination by Friday evening.

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10:20 a.m.

Crews are assessing damage after a swarm of tornadoes swept through central Iowa and damaged numerous buildings.

Some buildings at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown sustained roof damage when a tornado hit the city northeast of Des Moines on Thursday.

Commandant Timon Oujiri (TIH’-muhn OH’-jury) says the facility housing nearly 500 residents lost power, but that no residents or staffers were injured. He says generators are now powering the buildings.

Alliant Energy says more than 5,800 customers remain without power in Marshalltown, and that natural gas service has been shut down in part of the city. Crews have been dispatched to repair damage and assess which areas can have gas service safely restored.

Tornadoes also touched down in at least two other cities Thursday afternoon, injuring at least 17 people, flattening buildings and forcing the evacuation of a hospital.

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6:45 a.m.

Iowa’s governor and lieutenant governor intend to visit several towns struck by tornadoes.

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office says she and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg will visit Marshalltown on Friday. At least 10 people were injured in the city northeast of Des Moines when a flurry of tornadoes unexpected swept through central Iowa on Thursday.

Reynolds will also tour damaged areas of Bondurant and Pella, where seven people were injured when a tornado hit a factory. The governor will be joined there by Joyce Flinn, acting director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Marshalltown appeared to have been hit the hardest. Brick walls collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of a historic courthouse tumbled to the ground. The city’s only hospital also was damaged, and about 40 patients were transferred.

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6:30 a.m.

Thousands of people are without power after tornadoes touched down in at least three communities in central Iowa.

Alliant Energy was working Friday morning to restore electricity to nearly 6,400 customers in the Marshalltown area, which appeared to have been hit the hardest by the Thursday storms.

The Marshall County Courthouse, several businesses and dozens of homes were damaged, but few injuries and no deaths have been reported.

The Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter in Tama, a few miles east.

A tornado also hit a manufacturing plant in Pella, causing extensive damage but causing no major injuries or death. Seven people were treated at a local hospital and released.

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1:30 a.m.

A flurry of unexpected tornadoes swept through central Iowa, injuring at least 17 people, flattening buildings in three cities and forcing a hospital evacuation.

Residents — and even weather forecasters — were taken by surprise Thursday as the tornadoes hit Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant. Ten people were injured in Marshalltown and seven at a factory near Pella, but no deaths were reported.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Krull says forecasting models had showed only a slight chance of strong thunderstorms. Krull says if anything, meteorologists were expecting possibly large hail if strong storms developed.

Marshalltown appeared to have been hit the hardest. Brick walls collapsed in the streets and roofs were blown off buildings. The only hospital in Marshalltown was damaged and patients were being transferred.

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