DES MOINES, Iowa - Houses and other buildings were damaged in several northwest Iowa towns where multiple tornadoes apparently touched down Friday night, according to initial reports from the National Weather Service.
Thunderstorms with heavy rain affected much of the state, starting late Thursday and early Friday and delivering multiple rounds to some areas. In north-central Iowa, flash flooding was reported, and four people had to be rescued in Floyd after water flowed over a bridge they were traveling on, authorities said.
By late Friday there had been no reports of significant injuries.
Meteorologist Mike Gillispie of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D., said apparent tornado damage was reported in Woodbury, Plymouth and Cherokee counties, near the towns of Cherokee, Moville, Pierson, Quimby and Washta.
Two separate storms produced multiple tornadoes, though it was not clear how many tornadoes touched down. The weather service office in Sioux Falls counted six tornadoes in its coverage area, which includes parts of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Four were in Iowa - in rural Plymouth County, near Hinton in Plymouth County, between Sloan and Bronson in Woodbury County, and in northern Woodbury County and southern Cherokee County.
"It's a mess," said Lt. Tony Wingert of the Woodbury County sheriff's office. "We have more than 30 rural homes destroyed. Farms destroyed. We don't have a number for the number of cars destroyed. Most of the damage appears to be out of the rural areas."
The tornado near Sloan was a mile wide, the weather service said. The storm pushed through Moville, Pierson, Quimby and Washta.
Another tornado passed about a mile south of Cherokee. "It looks like the city itself was lucky and was just missed," Gillispie said.
Eridy Johnson was working at a Casey's convenience store in Cherokee when the storm blew through the town. Drivers gathered beneath the canopy to avoid the hail and rain, she said.
Though the tornado that passed near the town was about five miles away, Johnson said she and other workers at the store could hear it as it passed by. The police called and told the workers to take shelter, she said.
"We could hear it, it was like whistling," she said.
Several thousand Iowans lost their electrical service Friday night, according to utility websites.
In Floyd County, water runoff and overflowing storm sewers created widespread street flooding, said Michael Morlan, the county's emergency management coordinator. In two instances, responders were called to help people out of cars that were stuck on flooded roads, he said.
In the town of Floyd, four elderly people were helped out of their vehicle by firefighters after it stalled in 2 feet of water that pooled on a bridge, Morlan said.
Nobody was injured in either incident, he said.
The county saw consistent rainfall from around 6:45 to 9:30 p.m., Morlan said.
Falling trees in Charles City damaged two cars.
In one of the incidents a house's front porch was damaged along with nearby power lines, Morlan said.
Bigger problems in neighboring states
A tornado in Wayne, Neb., seemed to leave the biggest mess, the Associated Press reported. Mayor Ken Chamberlain said at least 15 people were hurt in Wayne.
Snow was blamed for the deaths of three people who were killed in a traffic accident on snow-slicked U.S. Highway 20 in northeast Nebraska. Almost 3 feet of snow fell in parts of South Dakota and Wyoming.
Meteorologists had warned Thursday of an exceptional risk of severe weather. It was the first time since at least 2000 that such a storm had been forecast a day in advance in October.
D.M. garage ruined in lightning fire
One of the earlier rounds of severe weather soaked Des Moines and cost a homeowner his garage.
By 9 a.m., the Des Moines airport had received 2.23 inches of rain. That's a record for daily rainfall Oct. 4. The previous record was 2.07 inches set in 1941. Little rain fell the rest of the day.
Anthony Mazzie of Des Moines said he noticed lightning strike behind his house at 300 59th St. in Des Moines around 7:45 a.m. He looked outside but didn't notice anything, Mazzie told the fire department.
However, Mazzie realized his one-car garage was on fire about 9:15 a.m.
"When the fire crews arrived, the garage was fully engulfed," Des Moines Fire Department Capt. Steve Brown said. "Total loss of the garage."
The damage is estimated at $10,000, Brown said.
Brown said the garage fire was an isolated case during the storm.
What should you do if you notice a lightning strike close to your home or another building?
Brown said to call the fire department right away if you think lightning might have hit a building. Stay inside during the storm and wait for the weather to clear before investigating yourself, Brown said.
New conditions: Dry and windy today
Colder temperatures are expected to pass through the state by today, with dry and windy conditions in place by the afternoon.
Forecasts call for highs in the low 50s in the north to the low 70s in the south, with temperatures dropping into the 30s overnight.
Temperatures will be in the low to mid-70s throughout the next week. "Temperatures will become more seasonable for October," said meteorologist Robert DeRoy of the National Weather Service.
Meteorologists in northwest Iowa planned to send out tornado survey teams this morning to examine the damage.
Register staff writer Lillian Schrock contributed to this story, which includes information from the Sioux Falls, S.D., Argus Leader.
(Copyright 2013 by Des Moines Register. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)