Tornadoes spotted in Black Hawk County

WATERLOO –  Storms tore across Northeast Iowa on Saturday night, damaging an Oelwein apartment building and knocking down a barn, trees and power lines in Waterloo and elsewhere.

Multiple funnel clouds were spotted as a fast-moving storm moved through Black Hawk County just before 6 p.m. At about 6:35 p.m. a tornado was spotted on the ground in Fayette County.

High winds tore off part of a wall of a 12-plex at the Buffalo Run Apartments on 13th Avenue N.W. in Oelwein and damaged siding and gutters on a second building at the complex.

No injuries were reported, according to Oelwein police, but one woman suffered a cut on her foot from stepping on broken glass, residents said.

Lonnie Robbins was home at the time and watched from his front door as winds started to rip through Buffalo Run around 6 p.m.

“I saw it coming. It wasn’t a small funnel, it was just a whole bunch of swirling, blowing around in a big circle,” Robbins said.

He retreated inside to the bathroom of his ground floor apartment; the building doesn’t have a basement. “They always say about the train, and I heard something go whoosh, and I even felt it.”

“It ripped the hallway wall off, smacked that into my apartment, and when it did that, it knocked a hole in my apartment,” Robbins said.

“I didn’t even know it had happened until I looked out my window there,” he said.

Debris partially buried Reinert’s pickup truck and shattered a window on the vehicle. A passenger car parked next to it was also damaged.

The two said residents of the heavily damaged building are being sheltered at a nearby hotel. Residents in the building with minor damage were able to remain in their apartments.

The storm hit amid the coronavirus pandemic, and emergency crews wore surgical masks as they responded. Both Robbins and Reinert had been staying home and away from others because of existing health issues.

“I got no shelter in place now,” Reinert said.

Damage in rural Fayette County was limited to downed trees and power lines, said Fayette County Sheriff Marty Fisher. Other damage in Oelwein consisted of branches and utility lines.

Before hitting Oelwein, the storm passed through Buchanan County, where officials said damage was limited.

“I heard it really hit the county line, right hear on the south edge of Oelwein,” Fisher said.

At Waterloo, the storm system brought heavy rain and hail along with high winds as it moved northeast through the county. A funnel cloud was spotted south of Hudson about 5:45 p.m. and another was spotted in southern Black Hawk County south of Waterloo.

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