This Sunday marks the 54th anniversary of the infamous EF5 tornado that devastated Charles City on May 15th, 1968.
Meteorologist Chris Nelson of St. Ansgar says the twister that day was an example of the various weather dynamics that occur in May in Iowa.
Nelson, who hosted a class earlier this week at the Charles City NIACC Center, “Charles City’s F5: Can or Will It Happen Again?” says it could happen again, but maybe not the “perfect” path like it took that day.
Nelson adds that EF5 tornadoes are rare, but many people also thought tornadoes were rare in December, until the serial derecho of December 15th that spawned over 60 twisters in Iowa, including at least eight in north Iowa.
Nelson says during the storms of December 15th, he was chasing a storm near St. Ansgar and while it wasn’t determined to be a tornado, he says the way the straight line winds that night shook his car, he was never more scared as a storm chaser.
**St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church will feature a special program during their 9 a.m. service this Sunday (05.15) recognizing the tornado of that fateful day.
Charles City isn’t the only north Iowa community marking an anniversary of an EF5 tornado this Sunday.
About the same time an EF5 descended on Charles City, another massive twister struck in Oelwein and Fayette County on May 15th, 1968. The tornado killed five people and damaged over 1,000 homes from Oelwein to Maynard before it ended a few miles west of Fayette. Per Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, the warning sirens sounded for only 15 seconds before a power failure in Oelwein.
The Charles City tornado that day started north of Hansell, passing east of Aredale, west of Greene, east of Marble Rock, before devastating Charles City. The tornado grew larger and more intense as it approached Charles City, striking the city at approximately 4:50 pm. The tornado continued to the northeast hitting Elma, then turned to the north and dissipated south of Chester, near the Minnesota border.