Tornado of 2017
Wayne county, Iowa
On March 6, 2017, an outbreak of tornadoes struck the Midwest with over 60 recorded tornadoes in a 24-hour period. 10 of the recorded tornadoes were in Iowa. In Wayne County, an EF2 tornado hit the town of Seymour and surrounding areas. “You never think the tornado is going to hit your town, but we knew there was potential,” said the town’s mayor, Caleb Housh.
The tornado traveled a 12.6-mile path to the town’s square. At 200 yards wide and with speeds of up to 125 miles per hour, the damage to Seymour and the surrounding areas was extensive. Four Amish farms to the south of the town were damaged. A Seymour resident, Vernon Mullet, lost his house, barn, and a wood shop to the tornado.
The tornado destroyed homes and businesses, reaching its peak in Seymour Square. Mayor Housh estimated 15 percent of the houses in the town suffered damage. The senior living home and most of the town’s school buildings were also hit. The Seymour Superintendent Brad Breon noted, “It was a direct hit. The roofs have been peeled off of all our buildings. Both our gymnasiums, the roofs are gone — they’re a total loss. There’s extensive damage.”
The scope of the destruction was not noticed right away. Mayor Housh recalled discovering the damage. “To be honest, the power was out, and the extent wasn’t really known last night. It was this morning we realized it was worse than we thought. You could see it. It was devastation for a while.”
Mayor Housh was confident in the community’s ability to rebuild. “We are pretty lucky. We’re pretty fortunate. There were no injuries. Everything that was damaged can be rebuilt, and we’re a strong little community. We’ll get everything fixed up.” Seymour received aid from Wayne County to help rebuild. A year later, the town was still in the process of rebuilding. “The amount of monetary donations, the food and clothing, and just the time that people have spent, it was a really, really cool thing to be a part of that. I never, ever want to do again,” said Housh. For small towns like Seymour, severe weather events challenge the entire community.
Sources: on-line: Roger Riley, “Amish Farms Rebuild After Tornado Strikes Four Farms,” 13WhoTV, March 10, 2017; Krystal Fowler, “Road to Recovery: Seymour one year after EF2 Tornado,” Daily Iowegian, February 21, 2018; Beth Waldon, “Tornado Rips through Seymour,” KTVO, March 7, 2017; Molly Longman,“Mayor: Tornado in Seymour has Brought Our Community Together,” Des Moines Register, March 7, 2017; images: National Weather Service.