Alexandra Pope, staff writer
April 10, 2011 — A state of emergency was declared in Iowa's Monona County Saturday night after severe storms spawned several tornadoes.
The National Weather Service confirmed that two F3 tornadoes and three F2 tornadoes touched down in Monona, Sac, Pocahontas and Kossuth Counties.
One confirmed F3 tornado packing maximum wind speeds of 262 km/h devastated the town of Mapleton, which one journalist described as looking “like a war zone” Sunday morning.
The tornado, which touched down around 7:20 p.m. Saturday night, flattened a grain elevator, ripped up the centuries-old trees for which the town was named and demolished homes and buildings along its 3.5-mile swath.
Amateur video supported eyewitness accounts that the storm was about half a mile wide when it slammed into Mapleton.
However, only minor injuries were reported, likely because warnings were issued up to 10 minutes before the tornado hit, giving residents time to seek shelter, officials said.
The town was barricaded Sunday as personnel from the Iowa National Guard and the National Weather Service assessed the damage to gas lines and other infrastructure.
Residents were eventually permitted to return to what's left of their homes, although the town could remain without utilities for the next two weeks.
The emergency proclamation covering Mapleton and surrounding Monona County allows the state to use some of its funds to assist with the cleanup.
Monona County is no stranger to severe weather; in June 2008, four Boy Scouts were killed when a tornado hit the Little Sioux Scout Ranch.
With files from the Associated Press and the Sioux City Journal