1968-05-15 Charles City/Oelwein Iowa tornadoes

Jan 28, 2009
Conrad, Iowa
The Charles City tornado is listed as having a 65 mile path length, however it was actually the second of probably three tornadoes produced by the same supercell. The F5 tornado entered Charles City shortly before 5PM and caused extensive damage through the entire city. At about the same time a second F5 tornado hit Oelwein located 40 miles to the SE. The Oelwein tornado moved NE and hit Maynard sweeping homes completely away. The Oelwein supercell also produced more than one tornado. Many farms were severely damaged or in some cases totally swept away by both tornadoes. The two F5's killed 18 people and injured more than 600. The thunderstorms formed on a wind shift line ahead of the cold front. There had been severe thunderstorms during the morning hours along the warm front (baseball size hail at 10AM in Iowa City) it appears the thunderstorms interacted with an outflow boundary from the morning convection. The tornadoes were part of a larger outbreak that affected several states.

Joe Acord

May 22, 2007
Oklahoma City, OK
Good post.

Good post. My mother grew up in Charles City (and is currently living there)and went through this monster. Although not in ground zero, but still heavy damage in the vicinity of 4th and F St. The museum there has many items still intact from that storm.

I spoke to many people in that town about this and at the time of the tornado, the local media was reporting that the weather people were estimating the winds to be 350mph. Of course is this suspect, but I would really love someone from the NSSL or another agency to run a case study to see what they think.

For a town that normally gets flooded out, or shoots fireworks at people, getting the distinction of having the strongest tornado on record would be yet another notch for a small town in Iowa

Joe Acord