National Weather Service surveying damage in Iowa after Sunday's storms
Ottumwa residents are removing debris and picking up their yards after the first big storm of the season swept through Sunday afternoon.
The damage is everything from a few windblown branches to house fires and damaged roofs. While residents rebuild, emergency crews are recovering from the one of the busiest days they've seen in a while.
"We had an incident that required medical attention over by one of our schools and the wind had come up and some people got injured because of the flying debris," said Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller. "So we had a lot of our firefighters on that call. About the same time we were over there, we also had a report of a roof that had blown off of a local business and when the roof was blown off, it caused a gas leak. So we had to separate some of our guys from the medical call out to the gas leak. And then shortly after they arrived on scene to the gas leak, we had a house fire come in and assistant chief Mike Craff responded to the house fire and upon arrival, there was heavy smoke showing, so that was a working fire. So we were really, there was a couple hour period, two to three hour period, where we were all over town with different calls."
The local business Chief Miller referenced was McGregors Furniture on North Court in Ottumwa. Roofers were out working Monday to repair the damage. The house fire on Crestview Avenue was caused by a split tree taking down an electrical wire and sparking the fire in the basement. Smoke damage has made the home a total loss, but homeowner Jeremy Weller said fire crews did a fantastic job. Had they arrived even five minutes later than they did, the house would have burned to the ground.
So far, it hasn't been determined whether or not Sunday's storm was a tornado or straight-line winds.
"The National Weather Service is coming down today and they're going to visit several counties in southeast Iowa to determine exactly what happened," said Josh Stevens, of Wapello County Emergency Management. "Sometimes radar doesn't indicate a tornado, but that doesn't mean a tornado wasn't present. Or they're just going to verify that it was straight-line winds based on some survey formulas that they have with the team."
Storms are unpredictable, but as it is severe weather season, be as prepared as possible and have an emergency plan.
"Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do, but when you see storms coming, whether or not a tornado warning has been issued or not, we say take cover in the basement, which is your safest place," Miller said. "Stay away from glass windows and if you're outside, get inside where you can take cover."
"I always encourage people to get a NOAA weather radio, for sure," said Stevens. "That's the best way and the quickest way to get information. It's as quick as we get on our dispatch center. Typically, when the National Weather Service issues a warning, it goes out over their weather radio first, then tele-typed to us, so folks actually get that really quickly."
As of late Monday evening, Stevens said the National Weather Service is still working on their surveys and reports on the storm.