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Great Tornado of 1976: Iowa Time Machine June 13, 1976

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On June 13, 1976, one of the largest tornadoes in Iowa history formed near Luther before moving north-by-northeast across US Highway 30 between Boone and Ames. The nearly mile-wide F5 tornado churned destruction before ripping through the small community of Jordan.

The largest tornado in the area’s history, the cyclone gained strength after touching down and spawning four smaller satellite tornadoes while moving west of Ames. Riding a strong downburst wind, the tornado approached Roland Schoof's farm, forcing the family to desperately flee in the face of the ferocious funnel. The parent tornado started to spawn smaller funnels, including an F3 anticyclonic, which followed the main storm roughly two miles to its east. Skirting the Boone-Story County Line northwest of Ames, the tornado lifted roughly four miles from Gilbert at 4:15 p.m.

The straight-line winds that guided the tornado between Boone and Ames then roared from the northwest at incredible speeds, pairing with the tornados in demolishing more than 60 homes and 300 farm buildings. Hours later, the Schoof family returned to find their home demolished and a tractor buried nose-deep in the Iowa topsoil. The family, unsure of who owned the unfamiliar tractor, also wondered where the wind swept their car.

WHO-TV news photographer Charles Barthold photographed the tornado showing anticyclonic rotation. Dr. Ted Fujita, a Japanese-American meteorologist whose research primarily focused on severe weather, studied the footage. For his work, Barthold received the Charles Foster Peabody Award, one of the highest recognitions accorded to broadcast journalists. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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