A tornado that ravaged northeast Iowa towns and left seven people dead was the strongest the state has seen in more than 30 years, officials said Tuesday.
The National Weather Service rated Sunday's tornado as a "low-end 5" on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Officials said it was Iowa's first EF5 tornado since the tornado that blasted Boone and Story counties in 1976.
"This was a violent and historic storm," said Karl Jungbluth, science and operations officer for the weather service.
A crew of five weather service staffers analyzed the damage from the tornado, which was a few blocks wide in some parts and a mile and a half in others.
Winds reached 200 mph, as evidenced by flattened steel beams bolted into the concrete at an industrial building that was being converted into a church on the west side of Parkersburg, Jungbluth said.
Houses were sucked completely clean from their foundations. The tornado peeled the bark off trees, and broke the trees in half. Not one green leaf was left in its path.
In the 1976 storm, 88 houses were destroyed. No one was seriously injured.
At least 350 homes were destroyed in Sunday's storm.
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