MAPLETON, IOWA — Some residents here are dazed as they walk around their devastated town.
Others weep after a tornado ripped through the small community about 7:20 p.m. Saturday.
The huge, centuries-old trees the town is named for are wrapped around houses and on top of cars.
Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt told reporters 100 of the town's houses are uninhabitable. Out of the town's roughly 600 homes, another 360 are damaged.
Approximately 400 of the town's 1,200 residents could be displaced, said Karla Uhl, Mapleton's city clerk.
Miraculously, the twister caused no major injuries other than minor cuts and a broken leg. Residents had about 10 minutes warning before the storm hit.
“We're very lucky. Somebody was looking out for this community last night,” Pratt said.
The twister was measured to be on the lower end of an EF3, which carries wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph, reported a National Weather Service team that surveyed damage of Saturday evening's storm to confirm its size.
It left a path of destruction three and a half miles long, and at one point, measured three-quarters of a mile wide, the weather service said.
Jamy Garden's house began to rumble with the approach of the tornado Saturday night. Then the windows shattered, spraying her with glass. Using her cellphone as a flashlight, she fled to her basement and called her grandparents in tears.
On Sunday, she returned home, wandering her backyard in a blood-splattered hooded sweat shirt, her right hand and left knee wrapped in gauze. Around her lay a tangle of tree branches, twisted siding, broken glass and a canoe that wasn't hers.
Despite the damage, Pratt said officials hope to restore power to intact parts of Mapleton as early as Sunday afternoon. He says the gas will remain off for two weeks.
The Maple Valley & Anthon-Oto Community Schools district canceled Monday's classes.
Reports indicated the roof was blown off a high school, power lines were downed and several homes and buildings were destroyed.
Garden's house survived, but everything inside was tossed around. Her two dogs were safe, but she hadn't yet found her cat.
“I don't know where our gazebo went,” she said. “The garbage can right there, that was in the front yard. The shed is gone. I don't know what else to tell you. This is the most tumultuous thing I've ever experienced by far.”
Tammie Pech, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said Mapleton's community center is serving as a shelter for residents.
Eight residents stayed in the shelter overnight and Pech said it's likely the shelter could serve more Sunday evening.
She said the American Red Cross is providing food and water for residents, emergency personnel and clean-up crews as well as assisting with any other community needs. American Red Cross officials are also currently assessing the damage.
Officials reopened the town mid-morning Sunday, after it had been barricaded for most of the night due to safety concerns about gas leaks and other damage.
Crews worked to clean up the aftermath of the storm Sunday. Residents and city workers are cutting damaged trees and dangling branches with chainsaws and several trucks are hauling debris out of the town.
Mayor Fred Standa said one side of town got hit worse than the other, but overall he thought about 60 percent had been damaged. He estimated about 20 percent was “almost flat.”
Businesses, residents and city employees of Onawa, Iowa, are reaching out to the people in Mapleton.
Onawa Mayor Robert Skelton said on Sunday morning his city's maintenance crews were working to help board up windows of homes and businesses.
An Onawa glass company was headed to the town to assist in any way possible, he said.
“We know there's quite a bit of damage and businesses are destroyed,” Skelton said. “In Onawa we are fine, but our community has opened up to do whatever they need over there.”
He said Onawa police and rescue crews have also assisted the effort.
“We are doing whatever we can to help,” Skelton said.
Skelton said he believes it's been more than a decade since a tornado has hit the town of Mapleton, though he doesn't recall a storm ever producing as much damage as the one Saturday night.
Gov. Terry Branstad issued a disaster proclamation for Monona County, allowing the state to spend money to respond to the storm.
He is scheduled to tour Mapleton Sunday afternoon. The governor canceled plans to view storm damage in Sac and Pocahontas counties. There are unconfirmed reports of tornadoes there.
Two members of the Iowa National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing based in Sioux City are in Mapleton with emergency lighting equipment to assist recovery efforts.
Members of Sioux City's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force were knocking on doors Sunday morning to make sure residents were safe.
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King was also in the area to assess the damage. “This community will never be the same,” he said.
“Good parts of it will be new again, one day.”
World-Herald staff writer Juan Perez Jr. contributed to this report.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Contact the writer: