May 15: Anniversary of three major tornadoes in eastern Iowa

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WASHINGTON, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - 20 years ago, a tornado formed just southwest of Washington and swept northeast into Cedar County. It was rated an F3 based on damage to a farmstead southwest of Downey. The tornado was on the ground continuously for about 30 miles, then had an intermittent track for about another 15 miles. The storm dropped two more brief tornadoes near Oxford Mills and Zwingle. Dozens of homes and businesses were damaged from Washington County into southeastern Johnson County and Cedar County. 47 people were injured, but fortunately none were killed.

In 1968, two F5 tornadoes struck eastern Iowa. The first formed near Hampton and moved northeast into Charles City. It entered the city at about 4:50 p.m. and destroyed more than 400 homes and businesses. 60 percent of the city was damaged and debris went as far as Minnesota. The tornado was on the ground for 62 miles, killed 13 people, and injured 462.

Another violent tornado formed while the first was still ongoing. It developed just a mile southwest of Oelwein at 4:57 p.m., tore through town, then destroyed about five blocks in Maynard before dissipating west of Fayette. Nearly 100 homes were destroyed, five people were killed, and 156 injured.

The links below have more on these events:
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier: Remembering the Charles City tornado
National Weather Service retrospective on the Charles City tornado
Iowa Almanac audio summary