Remembering “The Big One”, CC Tornado 48 Years Ago Today

This picture was taken by the Floyd County sheriff (L. L. Lane) at his spotter position on Highway 14. It shows the tornado when it was 2 miles southwest of Charles City on May 15th, 1968.

Charles City, IA – 48 years ago Sunday proved to be a day that would be long remembered in Charles City as the day of the Big One or “The Charles City Tornado”.

A major tornado outbreak across the central U.S. resulted in what was probably the worst tornado day of the 20th century in Iowa. Multiple tornadoes struck northeastern Iowa including two extremely violent F5 tornadoes.

One of these moved from near Hansell in Butler County through Chickasaw, Floyd, and Franklin and into Howard County, dissipating just south of the Minnesota border near Chester. The large tornado passed directly through Charles City where it destroyed more than 350 homes and businesses. The smaller town of Elma to the northeast was also struck and suffered heavy damage. This tornado was on the ground for 65 miles, destroyed nearly 2000 homes, and resulted in 15 fatalities and more than 450 injuries with most of those occurring in and around Charles City.
The other violent F5 tornado that afternoon moved directly through Oelwein and Maynard before dissipating in Fayette County, killing 5 people and injuring more than 150 while destroying nearly a thousand homes along its path.

The official death toll for Charles City was 13.

KCHA radio remained on air reporting during and in the aftermath of the storm. The Tornado did an estimated $30 million dollars worth of damages in 1968 which would be almost $194 million dollars today.

To view pictures of the tornado destruction along with the rebuilding process, click here to be taken to the Charles City Tornado Facebook page.

About Chris Berg 1355 Articles
Chris was born in Webster City and raised in Charles City. As a young kid, he would always be caught singing along to songs on the radio. He says he's good at karaoke but we think otherwise. ;) In his free time, he enjoys beginning new projects at home and hardly ever finishing them. Chris lives in Charles City with his wife Vicki and a daughter Brynlee.