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1966-10-14 Belmond, Iowa tornado

A late season tornado outbreak in Iowa included a killer F5 tornado that struck Belmond. Strong surface low, very steep mid level lapse rates, and moderate directional wind shear combined to produce at least twelve tornadoes across Iowa. Having extreme instability present over Iowa at this time of year does happen occasionally. As the surface low moved into Western Iowa a warm front retreated to the North as 70 degree dew points surged in. Surface winds in Nothern Iowa backed nicely as breaks in cloud cover pushed temperatures into the upper 70's and low 80's. Thunderstorms developed in the early afternoon and raced to the NE. The thunderstorm that produced the F5 tornado developed just NE of the triple point where backed surface winds were optimal. The tornado struck Belmond at 2:55 PM just minutes after the home coming parade ended. Damage was extensive throughout town, 6 people died and over 170 were injured. Many farms suffered damage along the tornado's path, at least three were completely leveled. As the surface low wrapped up and moved to the NE, Sioux City Iowa received four inches of wet snow.


That is a interesting story. I have never heard of this event so thanks for sharing. This reminds me of the Woodward, IA tornado that occured in November of 2005 and was rated an EF3. This is the time of year when I expect maybe one severe weather outbreak with mostly hail storms or a linear wind event and on the weaker side. A F5 Tornado is the last thing I would expect for October.
Let me see if I can drum up some pics of this event, being from Northern IA myself your always hearing stories about the Belmond or Charles City F5's of the late 60's. Anyway, as I said I always see pics of this event and I believe I can find some pics of the event and try to post them.

BTW, here is some old 8mm film of the damage.

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R. A. A. Davis

We lived in Nevada, IA at the time of the Belmond tornado. One of my mother's co-workers was affected. All the windows in her house imploded, driving glass splinters into everything soft. All their upholstered furniture and children's toys had to be discarded.


I thought I read in Grazulis's book/research that he thought the Belmond 1966 tornado should have been rated F4 - because the only example of true F5 damage was an house outbuilding that had been blown about 100 feet and destroyed. The rest of the damage was in the F3 / F4 category -- lots of what he termed "Pre-1970s construction issues" that were common when assigning damage ratings. Still a very powerful storm - and in October no less.

I haven't even seen any photos of the Belmond tornado - I've wondered if any were taken but I figure they would have surfaced by now. The only book that I know of is Eyes of The Storm -- which is long out of print of course. It's a great read though.

Eyes of the Storm: Belmond Iowa Recalls the 1966 Homecoming Day Tornado

Tornado Talk - Belmond 1966 Tornado

Tornado: Accounts of Tornadoes in Iowa by John Stanford