THURMAN – An EF2 tornado, with winds reaching 135 mph, delivered a devastating blow Saturday evening to the town of Thurman, located about 20 miles south of Glenwood in northwest Fremont County.
Nearly every home in the community of 230 residents sustained damage when the tornado roared through around 5:30 p.m. Although damage was extensive and wide-spread, there were no serious injuries or deaths.
“We’ve had some bad storms come through here, but this is the most damage I’ve seen,” Fremont County Board of Supervisors member Randy Hickey said Sunday morning while assisting with the clean-up. “We’re getting the recovery people in here and we’ll be signing a declaration of disaster tomorrow.”
The National Weather Service believes the tornado that left a long trail of destruction in Thurman covered a path a half-mile wide and 10 miles long after touching down initially near the Missouri River. Hickey said there was significant damage on rural property east of Thurman, but it appears the tornado may have lifted before reaching the Tabor and Randolph areas.
A sizeable portion of the structural damage in Thurman was caused by fallen trees that were sliced, diced, whipped and whirled during the tornado. Dozens of decades-old trees were lost and power lines were damaged throughout town.
One of the houses in Thurman sustaining the heaviest damage had stood for over 100 years at 309 Filmore Street. The walls on both the east and west sides of the house gave way to the tornado and owner Kenny Reeves said what’s left of the structure will have to come down.
“We’ll tear it down and haul it off,” Reeves said. “I’ll either rebuild (here) or my mom has a lot in Sidney.”
Reeves said he purchased the house six years ago from his father, who had owned it since 1963.
Reeves was visiting a cousin in Tabor when the tornado hit.
“My cousin said, ‘It (house) has been there 100 years, it will hold up,’” Reeves said. “(When I got to town), I thought, holy cow - a big tornado. A few years ago it did this and it knocked trees down in the street, but it didn’t do this much damage.”
Damage assessment began Sunday morning as hundreds of volunteers and dozens of media members, both local and national, descended upon Thurman. An American Red Cross Disaster Response Team was also on hand to assist and coordinate volunteer efforts. A Council Bluffs home improvement store donated chain saws, rakes and other supplies for the volunteers to utilize while Fran Jensen and Rose Gee were serving a hot breakfast in the front yard of a home on Filmore Street to anyone who was hungry.
“We were flooded last summer in McPaul and these people in Thurman were kind enough to help us out,” Jensen said. “We’re just returning the favor.”
After the tornado hit Thurman Saturday, authorities ordered an evacuation and lockdown of the town. Residents were not allowed back in until early Sunday morning. The American Red Cross set up a shelter at Fremont-Mills High School for displaced residents, but as of Sunday afternoon nobody had stopped by for assistance or a place to sleep.
A fund for Thurman’s tornado victims has been established at First State Bank in Tabor.
The tornado in Thurman was one of more than 125 occurring in the Central Plains states over the weekend. Damage-producing tornadoes were confirmed Saturday in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.
Heavy rains and thunderstorms were prevalent throughout southwest Iowa Saturday.
Just prior to the tornado touching down in Thurman, five semi-trailer trucks overturned on Interstate 29 in Fremont County.