Some people in Winterset, Iowa are trying to salvage what’s left of their homes and lives after a tornado ripped through Saturday afternoon. At least seven people died, including two children under 5 years old.
Hundreds of volunteers helped pick up debris and give out food and water to victims Sunday. Efforts to clean up were stalled Monday after a winter storm left 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground.
The people whose homes were damaged say it’s nothing in comparison to the loss of life.
Seventeen-year-old Josie Beeson lived in her home for over eight years, before it came crashing down in a matter of seconds.
“My house got hit by the tornado. We have a lot of good friends and family helping us out here today,” Beeson told Fox News Digital.
A tornado with winds of over 100 miles per hour slammed the community.
“I had just gotten through the door to the basement when it hit the house. Unfortunately, I lost my dog to the tornado,” Beeson said.
Madison County Emergency Management Director Diogenes Ayala told Fox News Digital that it was one of the worst tornados he’s seen in the town.
“It’s devastating to lose anyone, but especially children. It’s something that a lot of these responders had to go and recover that won’t be forgotten,” Ayala said.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds toured the damage Sunday and issued a disaster proclamation for Madison County. She became emotional after hundreds showed up to volunteer and help clean up the damage.
“We are Iowans and that’s what we do. We show up. We take care of family. We take care of our neighbors, and we take care of our community,” Reynolds said.
Over 50 homes were damaged; one of them belonged to Pete Sullivan.
“I got through the kitchen and a tree fell on the house, and we made it downstairs just in time,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan and his wife just bought the home in Winterset in August. The trees surrounding their home were one of the big factors that drew them to the area, but now he says it looks like a war zone.
“It’s terrible. The deaths are terrible. Everything can be replaced or repaired except for life,” Sullivan said. “Tornadoes are powerful. It’s amazing what they can do in a matter of 30 seconds.”
Ayala said multiple warnings and sirens went off before the tornado hit. He said his agency did its best to make sure everyone was aware of the need to take shelter.
Community members say they could use all the volunteers who can donate their time to recovery efforts, and the local chamber of commerce is accepting donations to help the survivors.