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After near record lows this morning it’s a bright and shiny May day, very much the opposite of May 15th, 1968. That day two EF5 tornadoes touched down in NE Iowa spewing death and destruction in what is arguably the worst tornado outbreak in modern Iowa history.

During the late afternoon and early evening of May 15, 1968, five tornadoes (two F1s, one F2, and two F5s) occurred in Iowa. These tornadoes were part of the May 15-16, 1968 outbreak (39 tornadoes) which affected ten states. In Iowa, the tornadoes caused 18 fatalities and 619 injuries. Since this outbreak, no other tornadoes have produced this many deaths or injuries in Iowa. There has only been two other F5 or EF5 tornadoes in Iowa since 1968 (Jordan – June 13, 1976, and Parkersburg – May 25, 2008). The picture above 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. Here is the 6am sounding indicating the potential instability and shear that would eventually lead to the tornadoes in the late afternoon.

Less than 2 hours before the two EF5′s this was the surface pattern showing temperatures in the 80s and dew points pushing 70. Big CAPE.

This picture from the NWS La Crosse shows Mrs. Grace Damon of Oelwein being rescued shortly after the tornado. She died a short while later of internal injuries.

If you are interested in more details there is a facebook page devoted to the Charles City tornado You will find lots of good stuff there including personal accounts and many personal photographs. Personally, this is the storm that catapulted my interest in storms, severe weather, and especially tornadoes. I was 12 and remember the event vividly. Roll weather…TS

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