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Officials, Residents Survey Tornado Damage in Reinbeck

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REINBECK, Iowa — A remarkable story of survival unfolded following Sunday night’s tornado that struck just west of Reinbeck.

Mary Nielsen, who lives on U Avenue, said a neighbor warned her a tornado was coming, but her husband Chris needs a wheelchair to move and could not seek shelter in the basement quickly. Nielsen said she ran downstairs, but her husband remained on the living room couch.

“He was on the couch and it all went around him. The ceiling and everything. Not one thing fell on him and like I said it’s a walking miracle we’re both alive,” Mary Nielsen said.

Nielsen said the tornado all but destroyed her home but remarkably both she and her husband didn’t get a scratch. Debris from the ceiling fell less than five feet from where Chris was on the couch.

Nielsen said she feared the basement wasn’t a safe place either to ride out the storm.

“I had my cellphone with me and I said ‘God, don’t trap me down here I’ve got three beautiful grandkids,’” she said. “Then I came upstairs and the fire department was there and a lot of rescue workers.”

Friends and family turned out both Sunday night and again on Monday to help. Jerry Smith, a family friend, was on the scene within minutes of the storm and had feared the worst.

“Our big fear coming out here was we were scared to death, my wife and I. And once we saw they were OK we could deal with the rest of this,” Smith said.

The National Weather Service in Des Moines surveyed the damage in Reinbeck on Monday morning. National Weather Service Meteorologist Kenny Podrazik confirmed the damage there was from an EF-1 tornado with winds around 100 miles per hour. Surveyors were able to pinpoint the spot where the tornado touched down: the home of Wally Stensland, who is a neighbor of Nielsens.

The National Weather Service determined the Reinbeck tornado was on the ground for approximately one-half mile.

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