EARLY, Iowa -- A Saturday night tornado severely impacted the Sac County Town of 605 people, with electricity being lost to several homes and businesses destroyed.

Sunday afternoon there was lots of particle board, shingles, tree limbs and insulation strewn on lawns just west of Crossroads Restaurant. A block further west, three-fourths of the Noll Trucking brick building at 113 Second St. was spilled onto roughly two lots.

Reaching the corner of Second Street at downtown Main Street, the prime devastation came into focus. Looking south down to Main and First streets, the former Payless Cashways building was destroyed.

On the northwest intersection of Second and Main, the roof was blown off the John Brinkman Repair business, where it lay propped up against the south wall of the 216 Main St. house. Four trees were  full of pink insulation. One of those four was also adorned with a 4-foot-by-12-foot piece of sheetmetal.

Brinkman served on the volunteer fire department and said of all the damage in Early from the tornado, those Main Street blocks were easily the worst hit part of town.

The tornado struck just before 9 p.m., moving northeast through Sac County after delivering a major blow to Mapleton in Monona County. Brinkman said he only got three hours of sleep as part of the fire department response, and the northwest part of town was evacuated Saturday night after a gas leak from the storm.

Brinkman matter-of-factly assessed the damage to his business. "I'm not going to cry over spilled milk," he said.

The people of Early rose about sunlight and methodically worked through the wreckage. They worked on their own properties, then moved on to help neighbors, Ann Trimble-Ray of Early said midafternoon, as a a few men nearby drove Bobcats hauling debris.

Robert and Darlene Noll live just south of their trucking business. Robert Noll described hearing the siren go off Saturday night, then debris hit the house, then the electricity went out. Noll initially thought the next distinctive sound was hail hitting the area, but it was the tornado, he figured.

He peered outside, saw swirling air and then later the extensive collapse of the Noll Trucking building, which dates to the 1940s. "I just practically started screaming, 'My shop is gone,' " Noll said.

Many people in town said they were gratified no one was killed by the tornado strike, with reports of only a few minor injuries. Crossroads Restaurant owner Robyn Padgett was open for business Sunday, and had been Saturday night, although she waited out the storm at home. She got worried when hearing a tornado cell was moving near Odebolt, and when the siren went off, she and the family headed to the basement.

"We had the grandkids and they were under the desk (in the basement)," Padgett described.

She and Trimble-Ray said many people heard not to expect the return of electricity until Monday.

Along U.S. Highway 20, two groups of Rural Electric Cooperative workers fixed powerlines in Sac County and more extensively in Ida County. Over a span of about 250 yards near Highway 20 and Marshal Avenue, the REC workers were putting up at least a half-dozen poles and repairing lines.

After the tornado exited Sac County, it continued with the northeast track and went through the far southeast corner of Buena Vista County and then Pocahontas County. Lisa Kraft of rural Newell described losing a garage, barn and outbuildings, while the home had damage to the siding.

"It definitely was a tornado. Some people said it was multiple tornadoes," Kraft said.

Kraft wasn't at home when the tornado hit, however, since she was at a wedding reception in the Knights of Columbus Hall in Fonda. Some people left after the tornado warning was put in place, but she was among many who rode things out at the K.C. Hall basement for about two hours.


County and education reporter

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