First Destructive Tornado of 2011 in Iowa Rated An EF-3

Mapleton(4)_smallSaturday Night, a strong tornado ripped into the western Iowa town of Mapleton.  When it was over more than a dozen people were hurt and the town had suffered a devastating blow.  Many homes and businesses were destroyed.  Today we wanted to take a closer look at the impact and power of this storm with the help of a survey conducted by the National Weather Service in Omaha.

The tornado was only on the ground for just over 3 miles.  But in the brief period it did a tremendous amount of damage.  The tornado first touched down 2 miles southwest of Mapleton, doing its first damage to some rural buildings in that area.  It proceeded to the northeast, entering the heart of the community.  Just one mile after exiting the town, the tornado lifted. It would wind up being one of 10 twisters in western Iowa during Saturday Night.

At its peak, the tornado was three-quarters of a mile wide, a strong wedge tornado to say the least.  Although rated an EF-3 tornado, the amount of damage that reached that threshold as very small.  Winds in this particular point of the tornado’s life were estimated at around 140mph. 

mapletonvIn the graphic to the left you can see the velocity scan of the tornado as it struck Mapleton.  A strong tornadic signature was detected by radar.  Of course, even with out the obvious radar warning, storms spotters and chasers on the ground also captured this storm as it entered the town.  Numerous videos have already been posted on places such as YouTube.

It was very fortunate that no one was killed in this storm.  Once again, early warning and the work done by forecasters, storm spotters and storms chasers together likely helped save many lives on Saturday Night.  It’s an unfortunate task that now lies ahead for the people of Mapleton as they begin to pick up the pieces.  But the good news is they are all there to do that cleanup.

Below is a map posted by the National Weather Service of the exact damage path and the intensity of the storm as it passed through Mapleton.


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