Eye of the Storm

After a short, heavy rain and hail, things got still around the Albia square as an eerie break in the black clouds showed a white western sky.

Like the cities and towns of Chariton, Corydon and Winterset, the tornado sirens in Albia went off around 6:15 p.m. Unlike those other cities, Albia and Monroe County were largely untouched by the deadly string of tornadoes that slammed into south central and central Iowa on Saturday night.

One person was killed at the beautiful and historic Red Haw State Park just east of Chariton, the Pin Oak Marsh Education Center was destroyed and part of the Soda Pop Saloon was blown away in Chariton by an EF-2 tornado. Six more people were killed near Winterset where a high end EF-3 tornado stayed on the ground over 25 miles. Pleasant Hill on the east side of Des Moines was also hit hard.

While people in Albia hunkered down in their basements, a large Monroe County Cattlemen’s banquet crowd tried hard to figure out what to do. With dinner just beginning to be served, the sirens went off and then the Albia Fire Department, just two blocks away and observing the storm, called to tell people to go to the interior of the building.

The storm and tornado tails spotted lifted into the air and split, going on either side of Albia and not coming back to the ground until they dropped momentarily south of Eddyville.

The Cattlemen’s banquet proceeded with all but a few attendees remaining at the Legion. There were reports of some quarter-sized hail falling near Georgetown and Albia received just a bit of hail for a moment as the storm closed in. Rainfall amounts from Saturday’s storm ranged from a tenth inch to about a half inch.

Monroe County did not miss the snow storm that followed Saturday’s thunderstorms and tornadoes. It started sleeting around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, then the sleet turned into a wet, sloppy 4.5-inch snowfall that cancelled school in Albia on Monday.

The wild March weather is expected to continue throughout the week with another 3-6 inch snow expected late Wednesday into Thursday with temperatures dropping below freezing over the weekend before warming back into the 40s early next week.