On November 12, 2015, KETV reported that a tornado moving along the ground in south Shelby County created a twelve-mile scar on the landscape in just fifteen minutes. Grain bins, power lines, a cattle barn, corn cribs, a barn, and the front and back porches of a home were all significantly damaged. The storm brought with it not only the funnel cloud but also hail. It knocked out the area’s electricity.
The tornado moving through Shelby County was not the only one that day in November. On November 11, nineteen tornadoes—a record—were reported in Iowa in 2015. The second largest outbreak of November tornadoes in Iowa occurred November 12, 2005. One of the twelve tornadoes touching down that day, one rated F-3, killed a person in Stratford. That tornado moved through counties east of Shelby County.
Most people do not expect to see tornadoes in Iowa in November. After another November tornado touched down in the state on November 28, 2016, Des Moines Register reporter Aaron Young noticed a social media response calling the November tornado “unreal” or saying “only in Iowa” [would such an oddball weather event occur] or just writing “wow.” Young decided to investigate.
According to Craig Cogil of the National Weather Service tornadoes can occur any month. “You have to be ready regardless,” he warned. Cogil credits the very social media that contained expressions of surprise about the November 2016 tornado as well as cameras on cellphones with helping the Weather Service establish a count of tornadoes throughout the months of the year. “People willing to report their findings have helped reveal these numbers over the years.”
A National Weather Service report on the Woodward-Stratford Tornadoes in November 2005 states that between 1950 and 2004 Iowa Tornado Statistics record only 23 tornadoes in November. Of those 23, 17 occurred in two days: 9 on November 9, 1975 and 8 on November 1, 1988. In that 54-year period eleven injuries and no deaths were recorded.
Sources: on-line: “Tornado Damage Confirmed in Shelby County,” KETV, November 12, 2015; Kyle Kiel, “Iowa’s Largest November Tornado Outbreaks,” Schnack’s Blog, November 11, 2017; Aaron Young, “November Tornadoes in Iowa are ‘Unusual,’ but not Uncommon,” Des Moines Register, November 28, 2016; National Weather Service report on Woodward-Stratford Tornadoes, 2005-11-12.