Tornadoes hit Iowa and kill seven – including two young kids – as wild weather destroys homes in Des Moines & Winterset

TORNADOES ravaged Iowa on Saturday and left at least seven dead and four injured as wild weather destroyed homes and left a path of destruction, officials say.

Severe weather hit the region late Saturday afternoon, affecting the Winterset and Norwalk areas.

Officials confirmed four adults and two children under the age of five died, but no identities have been released.

Madison County Emergency Management confirmed six of the deaths came after a tornado touched down near Winterset.

The Madison County health care system said staff was treating multiple injuries from the storm.

One was taken to a hospital in Des Moines, according to Madison County officials speaking at a press conference just after 9pm local time.

The seventh fatality was in Lucas County.

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"This is, I think, the worst anyone has seen in quite a long time," said Diogenes Ayala, Madison County Emergency Management Director.

The tornado tornado hit southwest of Winterset at 4.30pm local time.

An initial estimate from the National Weather Service office in Des Moines shows it was an EF3 tornado. Wind speeds reached at least 136 miles per hour.

Officials estimated 25-30 homes have been destroyed.

There was significant damage reported south and east of Chariton and damage was also reported in Red Haw State Park.

The county conservation building at Pin Oak Marsh was destroyed.

Further damage will be assessed on Sunday.

Search and rescue operations have stopped and officials have moved to shelter assessment, officials said.

"Let people that are living there, let them clean up, give them some space. This is pretty devastating for our community," Ayala said.

"Give people time to heal. Keep our community in your prayers tonight."

Iowa Gov Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for the county, which allows state resources to be used to assist with response and recovery efforts.

"Our hearts go out to all those affected by the deadly storms that tore through our state today," Reynolds said. "Our hearts ache during this time, but I know Iowans will step up and come together to help in this time of need, they already are."

Wendy Burkett told the Des Moines Register she and two of her three daughters were in their house Saturday afternoon when her husband, Tony, called her from a nearby shed where he was working and alerted her about a tornado warning.

Burkett said she came outside and joined him in front of the house, looking down their driveway toward the southwest.

"And then we saw it. The tornado," she said. "There was debris flying around and it was getting louder and louder."

They hurried with their daughters to their basement as the tornado roared by within seconds. As they clung to each other, a window shattered outwards and water began spewing from the pipes, she said.

But within about a minute, the tornado passed by, and while the family was unhurt, their home was in ruins amid debris all around, even in the trees.

The tornado missed the city of Winterset, with most of the damage occurring in rural areas, reports indicate.

The Winterset Community School District released a statement on its Facebook page.

"Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s severe weather. We want to let everyone know that the New Bridge Church is opening as a Red Cross shelter tonight and will have a pancake breakfast starting at 7AM for those affected and EMS workers."

Elsewhere, officials are tending to additional damage and power outages.

Parts of Vinton are experiencing structural damage, downed power lines, gas leaks, and more, according to KCRG.

Many have taken to Twitter to share photos of the damage left in the wake of the storms and tornadoes.

One traveler even shared a photo from a basement in the Des Moines airport.

"Our plane landed, then they stopped all air traffic. Shouldn’t last long," tweeted Karl Vaters.

Anyone looking to volunteer to assist with clean up in Winterset can call the Madison County Chamber of Commerce starting at 7am Sunday morning at (515) 462-1185.

If you are aware of someone who is missing or who has not been accounted for, you can call Madison County officials at (515) 462-3575 extension 8.

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