THIS PHOTO TAKEN BY Melinda Montgomery near the rural home of her father-in-law, Richard Montgomery, shows clearly the tail of the tornado on the ground two miles northwest of the Albia city limits. The tornado would eventually pass over the Montgomery home on 625th Avenue, leaving dozens of trees damaged, along with some out-buildings.

It was the first time customers of Hy-Vee got to see the inside of their big coolers. They weren’t looking for ice cream or steaks. They were huddled with 40 fellow customers and Hy-Vee employees riding out what many believe was a high F-1 or low F-2 tornado that caused extensive damage to the grocery store.

Four major businesses on the west and south sides of Albia suffered severe damage and a couple of homes near Hy-Vee were badly damaged in the storm that struck around 6 p.m. Monday.

That’s two days after a tornado caused extensive damage to homes and farmsteads along the county line road south of Eddyville.

Tornado sirens went off in Albia round 5:30 p.m. Monday when storm spotters saw a funnel (mostly wrapped in rain) south of Lovilia moving in a south by southeast path. Early reports from Joe Milledge on KIIC said the funnel did not appear to be on the ground. In actuality, the tornado was sort of bouncing along the ground.

That changed as the storm approached Quality Ag, located on Old Highway 34 about two miles west of the Albia city limits. The major agri-business was directly in the path of the tornado, now fully engaged along the ground and destroyed most of the agri-business site. One building, with roof damage, was left standing.

“It was a million dollars of buildings yesterday,” said Joe Sinclair. “Today it’s worth $180 a ton in scrap.” No employees were at the facility when the tornado hit.

Sinclair said they would have scrappers out immediately and begin the rebuilding process. “We’re going to start over,” he said. “Had this happened a couple of weeks ago, it would have been a disaster for our customers. We’ve got some time now to get ready for harvest.

“Go to town and buy something,” said Sinclair when asked what he thought people should do. “There’s a lot of sight-seeing to do with the storm, but do some business at the same time. That’s what we need to do.”

The second business the tornado heavily damaged was the Albia Animal Clinic, owned by Dr. Greg Mobley. The main animal treatment building had most of its roof ripped off. The office building and dog kenneling area did not sustain as much damage.

Wendell Hess, who lives in the first house east of Quality Ag, saw a huge cloud approaching but never saw a tail. “We saw the cloud and headed to the basement,” he said. “It was just a wall of rain.” When he and his two children came out of their basement, they found a large limb lying over the top of the family car and a shed mangled. Amazingly, an old tile silo was untouched.

The storm headed southeast, flattening corn fields owned by Ed Crall and Dean Lathrop, uprooting trees at St.  Mary’s Cemetery and going over the top of Dean and Nathalie Lathrop’s newly remodeled home. The farmstead suffered significant tree damage, but the house was spared.

As it headed toward Hy-Vee, miraculously it missed the Welcome Home Soldier Monument. Not a single flag pole was moved, not a single flag damaged in the storm.

The storm ripped off the covering of a hoop shed at the Monroe County Secondary Roads Department and mangled some of the metal framing. Then it hit Hy-Vee. The building was heavily damaged, with the deli ripped away from the main building and the brand new front doors destroyed when that part of the building was raised by the tornado. The doors basically fell in and were held by electrical wire. There was also roof damage and a large rooftop air conditioner unit was placed neatly on the floor of the deli. The east side of the Pamida building was also heavily damaged.

“We had plenty of notice of the storm,” said Store Director Tim Michaels. “I got on the store intercom and told customers and staff that a tornado was bearing down and to move into the beef cooler. I went outside and saw the cloud, but it was wrapped in rain. I made a walk-though the aisles and joined everyone else in the cooler. We prayed, then we felt the low pressure pop in our ears and then it was over.”

Two people seeking shelter from the storm did enter the building late and Michaels said they were in Aisle 1, shaken from being so close to the destruction of the deli, but uninjured.

The mobile home owned by Clyde and Tina Williams located just east of Hy-Vee, that has a near new large garage to the east was largely destroyed, but the home of Gary and Vivian Stafford, directly across the street was untouched.

The neighborhood has a number of mobile homes and double-wides without basements.

“We heard the sirens and everybody in the neighborhood got out,” said Stafford. “We drove west on Highway 34, up the hill past the gun shop and watched the storm pass.” When he returned he found a number of trees in his back yard uprooted and a Kinze sign from Belzer Equipment sitting in his yard, but his home was relatively undamaged. The Pizza Hut building was all but untouched.

The storm continued southeast and ripped large portions of steel roofing off the Indian Hills Inn. It also uprooted trees in Deb Peterson’s home (the long-time home of Red Frye) and did considerable tree damage to the home of Carol Sovern. Trees and branches were down all over the southeast corner of Albia.

Community 1st Credit Union’s building and other businesses and industries along Highway 5 appeared untouched.

Damage to rural areas in the path of the storm was considerable according to Sheriff Dan Johnson. The first major damage came at the home of Cecil and Sandra Showers south and west of Lovilia. The tornado destroyed their home. It also damaged areas around Weller.

As the storm approached Albia, it hit hard homes on 625th Avenue, about two miles straight west of Albia. Richard Montgomery saw clearly the tornado tail on the ground before he and his wife, son Richard and his family headed to the basement. The Montgomery acreage sustained lots of tree damage. A farmstead across the road lost a barn and Montgomery said a horse was seriously injured.

The farmstead of Bill and Lisa Flahive was also damaged, as was the farmstead of Terry and Debbie Maloy. They lost a big barn on their place. Numerous trailers, LP gas tanks and farm implements were reported rolled and tossed. The Albia area was drenched with about two inches of rain in the course of 20 minutes. There was widespread flooding throughout the area.

See this full news story and lots and lots of pictures showing the extensive storm damage in the Tuesday, June 23rd issue of the Monroe County News.