WOODWARD, Iowa – Jackie and Bill Seeman sorted through the wreckage of their home Sunday to see what was spared by a tornado that killed one person and damaged dozens of homes.
They were delighted to find a few collectibles, but their car was covered in rubble and their boat had been thrown hundreds of feet away.
"We'll probably stay here, although I'd like to go somewhere without a tornado," Jackie Seeman said as she began crying.
Twisters swept across two counties north and west of Des Moines late Saturday afternoon, ripping up farms in the towns of Stratford and Woodward. At least one person was killed in Stratford.
"Half the town's gone," Bob Smith said of the destruction in Stratford, a town of about 750 residents. He said he ran from his camper as the tornado touched down about 5 p.m.
Bill Seeman was shopping in a nearby town when the storm arrived but Jackie Seeman, 47, said she was in bed when her house collapsed around her.
"I heard a big whoosh and a big boom and then my house just came in on me," she said.
Dallas County Sheriff Brian Gilbert said no serious injuries were reported in Woodward, but search dogs were being brought in to check the rubble as a precaution. "We are 98 percent sure we have accounted for everybody," he said.
"It's amazing. If you've seen the damage here, we had homes that were just obliterated and they had people in them at the time it came through," Gilbert said.
Roads to Woodward were being reopened Sunday to allow access to utilities, Gilbert said.
In Stratford, a town of about 746 people, residents were asked to stay away to give repair crews room to work Sunday, said Chris Segar, a communications supervisor with the Hamilton County sheriff's office.
Segar said the Red Cross set up a relief center for residents affected by the storm.
High wind also broke windows on the outskirts of Ames, where tornado sirens had already sent college football fans gathered for the Iowa State-Colorado game running for shelter.
When Sean Wolfe, of Woodward, returned from the game, his home was gone. "It's done," he said.
However, his dogs were unhurt in his garage. "They're my kids," he said Sunday as he walked them past the town fire station.
Tornadoes also caused minor damage in several other towns, said Gary Foster, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines.
Tornadoes aren't common this late in the year. Iowa has had just 23 November tornadoes since 1950, according to weather service records.
The conditions were right, though, with unseasonably warm weather in the way of a fast-moving cold front, experts said. Last weekend, another tornado ripped through western Kentucky and Southwest Indiana, killing 22 people.