A large tornado flattened a grain elevator and destroyed homes and buildings on its weekend rampage through the small western Iowa town of Mapleton. Authorities reported no serious injuries.
"It was huge, just huge," said Thomas Mohrhauser, an attorney in the town of about 1,200 people. "It just kept getting bigger and bigger."
Mohrhauser said the tornado appeared to be about a quarter-mile wide when it cut a northwest path through town Saturday evening.
National Weather Service meteorologist Van DeWald confirmed that Mapleton, located about 40 miles southeast of Sioux City, received "quite a bit of damage" from the tornado, which hit about 7:20 p.m. Saturday.
Reports indicated the roof was blown off a high school, power lines were downed and several homes and buildings were destroyed. Authorities said three people were treated for minor injuries at Burgess Health Center in Onawa, about 20 miles from Mapleton.
A Monona County Sheriff's dispatcher said authorities blocked access to Mapleton except to emergency crews because of the heavy damage. The dispatcher, who declined to give her name, wouldn't give details about injuries.
Frank Boksa, a weather service meteorologist in Johnston, said Gov. Terry Branstad issued a disaster proclamation for Monana County, allowing the state to spend money to respond to the storm.
Boksa said another tornado touched down near the Sac County town of Early, but there appeared to be little damage.
Authorities had no immediate calculation of the intensity of Saturday's tornado that struck Mapleton.
KCAU-TV in Sioux City showed footage of gutted buildings, debris scattered across roadways and emergency vehicles with sirens flashing as crews searched the damaged and destroyed buildings.
"We're going door by door to make sure everybody's out," Joe Rodriguez, of Sioux City's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, told KCAU-TV.
Monana County is in the same region of western Iowa where four Boy Scouts died in a tornado that struck a scouting ranch in June 2008. The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit the 1,800-acre Little Sioux Scout Ranch in the Loess Hills was an EF3 tornado on the 1-to-5 Enhanced Fujita scale of intensity with an estimated wind speed of 145 mph.
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