SIOUX CITY | Two farmhouses were spared, but more than 90 percent of their outbuildings were turned to twisted pieces of metal and large and small pieces of wood, after Osceola County was the focal point in Northwest Iowa when a tornado struck Friday night.

Osceola County was the site of one tornado Friday night, as swirling, damaging winds of more than 100 mph hit the areas west of Melvin and the rural area between Iowa Highway 60 and U.S. Highway 59.

The tornado missed the adjacent counties of Lyon, O'Brien and Dickinson counties, but three others struck just north of the county and state border into Minnesota.

"We were lucky it missed Sibley. Sibley is the most populated town in the county," Osceola County Emergency Management Department Director Dan Bechler said Saturday, describing the town of 2,800 that serves as the county seat.

The National Weather Service surveyed damage in Osceola County well into Saturday afternoon, at one point using a drone on loan from Dickinson County.

Meteorologist Matt Dux said there was a reported EF-2 tornado near Melvin, with winds of 125 mph. Another tornado was reported nearby, at an EF-1 magnitude, just a mile north across the border of Osceola County, in Bigelow, Minnesota.

Dux and Bechler said the good news is that there were no reported injuries.

"Anytime you can avoid the loss of life, you've dodged a bullet," Bechler said.

"It looks like people had time to get the warnings and take action with the warnings," Dux said.

Large parts of Siouxland were under tornado warnings Friday evening.

The weather service survey showed the tornado near Melvin and the unincorporated village of Cloverdale landed at 8:07 p.m. Friday, and was on the ground for about six miles and 20 minutes. The tornado swath was about 250 yards wide.

Phyllis Hooyer and Bruce Hooyer, of Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday surveyed the damage at a farm owned by Gert Ommen just east of Cloverdale. Farm structures and vehicles there were strewn in large and small pieces.

The Ommen farm was one of the two that Bechler said had the worst damage in Osceola County. No one was at the Ommen farm when the tornado struck.

Beyond the two heavily damaged farmsteads, the tops of trees were clipped off near Cloverdale.

"There was some minor damage to other farmsteads," Bechler said.

Just before noon Saturday, varying gravel roads near Cloverdale were closed to drivers, as many emergency responders were present.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office reported that in the tornado aftermath there were approximately 80 head of Black Angus cattle roaming in the area bordered by County Road A-34 to the north, A-50 to the south, Highway 59 to the west and County Road L-40 to the east. People were urged to stay clear while those cattle were rounded up.

Bechler said 25 emergency workers from varying county entities responded to the tornado.

"It has been a long night. Everybody is worn out," he said.

Bechler became the emergency director in 2010, and a tornado landed in Osceola County that year. The one Friday was the first tornado in the seven years since, and Bechler said he wants a long period again, if ever, before any tornado hits again.

The weather service reported in a Saturday update that there were four reported tornadoes Friday, one in Osceola County, one at Bigelow, and two more about 15 miles north of Bigelow, near Rushmore, Minnesota. Those four were on the ground at various points over the hour between 7:30p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Dux said there were no tornadoes in southeast South Dakota or northeast Nebraska.


County and education reporter

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