Heavy damage leaves Greenville residents suspecting tornado

Friday, August 10, 2018
Mark Erickson, of rural Greenville, points to the leveled outbuilding approximately 150 yards from his residence, which was destroyed as the result of a powerful storm which moved through the area during the early morning hours on Sunday. It was one of two buildings (building two below) to be torn to the foundation on the property. / Photo by Randy M. Cauthron

Looking at the scene around Mark Erickson's home in rural Greenville, one might be hard-pressed to find anything to feel lucky about.

A path from the northeast corner of his farm property at 2455 430th St. to the southwest corner is littered with large tree limbs, two leveled outbuildings, shingles and pieces of the previously mentioned outbuildings and substantial damage to a large machine shed the result of the early Sunday morning storm which moved across northwest Iowa as most slept.

"I woke up at about 10 til 4 (a.m.) because of the thunder and lightening," Erickson said. "I must have gone back to sleep. Then at 4:22 a.m. I woke up again. There was a roar. The whole house was shaking. We never lost power. It lasted about four seconds. Then it was quiet, just a light rain."

Erickson went outside to discover the path of destruction which had befallen his property. The house sustained minimal damage, with the exception of a pair of branches -- one from a tree 50 yards from the home -- which landed on the roof and front porch. A garage located near the home appeared untouched.

The roof and pieces from one of the outbuildings had traveled approximately 100 yards to the southwest, puncturing the exterior of the large machine shed which houses implements. Amidst the rubble of one of the downed structures, antique farm equipment. In the path, a grain trailer tossed on its side.

Erickson felt strongly, because of the pattern of destruction; and the fact no grain fields surrounding the farm, neighboring properties or the power lines directly across the gravel road show any signs of damage, what his property experienced was the result of a tornado.

Mike Gillispie, hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said damage reports he had received from northwest Iowa had been limited to extremely strong winds and tree damage.

"I don't believe we had any tornadic stuff that way," he said, suggesting the only rotations they were aware of centered around Chamberlain and White Lake in South Dakota.

Though he could not be certain using the radar model, he felt the most likely scenario would suggest straight-line winds.

"We received reports of a lot of straight-line wind damage," Gillispie said. "From Sioux Falls to Sanborn and down to your area we had lots of reports of tree damage. There was a 68 mph wind gust in Spencer. A 5-inch tree snapped in Rembrandt in Buena Vista County.

He continued, "There were 60 to 80 mph winds across the area. There was a report of 80 in Rembrandt just before 4 a.m., and 80 mph winds will do damage whether blowing straight or in a circle."

Erickson remains convinced if Gillispie or his co-workers were to come to the farm for a first hand look, and examine the path of the damage and destruction, he might feel otherwise.

Standing amidst the rubble of one of his outbuildings, waiting for the insurance adjustor to arrive before beginning the cleanup process, Erickson said he still feels lucky.

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