OTTUMWA — The National Weather Service said a tornado in Wapello County Friday peaked at EF2 winds. The area sees a similar severe weather risk for Tuesday.

Friday brought the first significant severe weather threat of the season, delivering damaging winds and hail as well as a significant EF2 tornado that destroyed homes and buildings in rural parts of northern Wapello County. It ultimately continued north into Keokuk, Washington and Johnson counties where it became a low-end EF4 tornado.

An EF2 tornado carries wind speeds of 111-135 mph and is considered "strong." An EF4 is considered “extreme” with winds between 166 and 200 mph.

According to preliminary assessments from emergency managers from Wapello, Jefferson, Henry and Van Buren counties, in conjunction with meteorologists from the NWS Des Moines bureau, the tornado reached peak speed of 135 miles an hour and was on the ground for approximately 8.1 miles.

On-site damage assessments and interviews were conducted with affected residents and farm owners in the area to piece together the report.

The tornado touched down four miles northeast of Ottumwa at just after 3:30 p.m. and carried on more than 40 miles before lifting in southwest Johnson County. The tornado was as wide as 600 yards and was on the ground for 67 minutes.

In Wapello County, much of the damage was confined to rural areas, with three homes and one hog confinement building suffering major damage; one of the homes lost an entire roof and an external wall. Also on one of the properties, a poorly anchored mobile home "rolled to total destruction," according to the report. At that point, the tornado had maximum wind speeds of 110 mph, which is classified as EF-1.

By the time the tornado reached a hog confinement, the speeds were EF-2, and two well-anchored hog confinement buildings were totally destroyed. A brick house suffered minor damage to a roof and windows, but another house was leveled just before the tornado left the county; the house was pushed off its concrete block basement.

The tornado was at its most violent stages in Keokuk County where three injuries were reported. A car was lofted into the air and tossed about 1,000 feet. Trees were completed debarked and a 325-foot cell phone tower was knocked over. Several homes near Keota were damaged, with one completely taken off of its foundation. A home northeast of Martinsburg suffered EF3 tornado damage.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Saturday issued a disaster relief proclamation for 12 counties, including Wapello, Keokuk and Mahaska counties.

According to Associated Press reports, 29 people have died as a result of storms that rocked the Midwest and South over the weekend.

The next storm

More storms are expected Tuesday afternoon and evening across Iowa. A moderate risk has been assigned by the Storm Prediction Center for eastern Iowa, including Mahaska County and portions of Marion County. Tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds of 70-plus mph are all threats again.

A significant tornado threat exists for Marion and Mahaska counties and eastern Iowa, and forecasters say tornados that do develop will move quickly.

Large hail up to 2 inches in diameter, which is larger than a golf ball, is possible across southern and east-central Iowa. The area can expect to see wind gusts of up to 50 mph, but the area could see speeds climb up to 70 mph as storms consolidate into lines.

Rain is possible all day Tuesday for Oskaloosa and Pella, but severe weather is expected to target the 4-11 pm hours across southeastern Iowa according to the National Weather Service.

Chad Drury can be reached at, and on Twitter @ChadDrury. Kyle Ocker can be reached at, and on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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