Tornadoes on Tuesday lead to close call for Dollen

Tuesday’s tornados resulted in at least one close encounter for Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Todd Dollen.
Dollen was on the scene at Hacklebarney Park performing evacuation operations when the tornado came through the park. Dollen shared that the sheriff’s office initially warned the campers of the threat early in the day.

“Sheriff Spunaugle checked Hacklebarney Park that morning when those storms went through and there were people at the campground then. The sheriffs office also went and notified campers at Pilot Grove Park where there were two campers, and Hacklebarney Park, where there were five campers. When they issued the tornado warning around the lunch hour, the only people in the campgrounds at that time were in Hacklebarney Woods Park,” Dollen said.
Dollen said.
Later that afternoon, Dollen said he was once again on his way to Hacklebarney, trying to stay ahead of the storm.
“Once I was east bound from Red Oak I was in rain until about Stanton; then I felt that I was ahead of the storm cell that was traveling towards Hacklebarney. There were numerous vehicles parked along Hwy 34/71 junction when I went through that were taking pictures/videos to the south of the storm. So I was hopeful I had enough time to clear the park and get out of the storm’s path,” commented Dollen.
Dollen said he was still in the process of issuing warnings and aiding in evacuations when the tornado made its way to the park.
“The storm just got there before I was able to get all the campers checked and out of the storms path. I was attempting to get to the shower house for shelter when the storm hit the park. A tree fell in front of my vehicle when I was approximately 50 yards from the shower house. The winds were too great for me to attempt to leave my vehicle to seek shelter,” advised Dollen.
Dollen was able to warn one camper who was taking a nap in a trailer right before the storm hit and get her to safety.
Dollen said having to ride out the tornado in his vehicle was a nerve-wracking experience he hopes he never repeats.
“I basically held on and was waiting for my vehicle to be moved in some fashion by the storm. I really don’t recall what was going through my mind after the storm passed and I was safe. When it was over and safe I went and checked on a lady that made it to the shower house. I’ve never had an experience this close to a tornado before, and I don’t care to again.”
The husband of the woman Dollen warned, Robbie Keeler, credited Dollen with saving her life, as the trailer she was in was destroyed by the tornado. Dollen said he was humbled by Keeler’s comments and was glad Keeler’s wife was okay.
Dollen said he wasn’t the only one who had a close encounter during the tornado. Some campers at Hacklebarney had to ride out the storm as well.
“There was another camper that had pulled into the equestrian campground to the south of the main campground and was still setting up that we were unaware of. I went by that campground with lights and siren but didn’t notice them until after I was past them and I wasn’t able to make it back to them before the storm hit. So unfortunately they also rode the storm out in their vehicle. They were shaken but uninjured,” Dollen explained.
During storm season, Dollen urges area residents to be weather aware and not let themselves get into a situation where they would need to ride the storm out in their vehicle.
Dollen credits the teamwork of the area’s first responders in keeping people safe during this recent round of storms.
“Without a doubt it was crediting to every entity working together as a team to get help to the people in need. Dispatch was swamped with two damage sites, one on the west side of Red Oak and then on the eastern part of the county. They were still quick to check on me when they knew I was in the area of the park when they put out that Hacklebarney took a direct hit. The firemen were quick to assess damages and make contact with the residents of the properties that were hit. We are fortunate in this community that all the local entities work well together,” Dollen stated. “The citizens of Montgomery County are very fortunate to have so many dedicated people that are employed or volunteer as first responders. Those first responders can’t get enough of the publics support.”
According to Montgomery County Emergency Management coordinator Brian Hamman, the tornado that struck Hacklebarney was one of three tornados that went through the county. The National Weather Service confirms three tornadoes in Montgomery County on May 21.
The Red Oak tornado rating was an EF1. Estimated peak wind: 107 mph. The path length/statute was 2.95 miles; the path width /maximum was 70 yards. The tornado started at 2:35 p.m. and ended at 2:40 p.m.
According to the survey summary, a tornado developed near Evergreen Avenue and tracked over open fields toward the northeast. Emergency management drone imagery shows the exact track of the tornado through the field, including where it turned toward the east for a bit. The tornado crossed the Nishnabotna River while turning slightly to the northeast again, causing substantial tree damage near the river. It then badly damaged a building at the city water facility, knocking out all doors and a wall. It continued to cause tree damage, but weakened quickly as it moved northeast, dissipating just prior to reaching Broadway Street in Red Oak.
 The second tornado, the Northwest Adams tornado, was located in Southeast Montgomery County. The tornado’s rating was an EF3. Estimated peak wind was 140 to 150 mph. The path length/statute was 32.01 miles; the path width/maximum was 1300 yards. The tornado started at 2:43 p.m. and ended at 3:19 p.m., seven miles south/southeast of Massena.
According to this survey summary, the tornado developed near 130th Street and J Avenue in Page County, producing damage to outbuildings and trees as it tracked toward the east and northeast. Large sheds were destroyed, and some homes began to sustain damage near the Page/Montgomery county line and O Avenue intersection. The tornado continued to intensify as it moved northeast and became quite wide as it moved northwest and north of Villisca. A large communications tower was toppled west of Villisca, and multiple farms were badly damaged northwest of Villisca. EF-2 damage was observed at a farmhouse near 240th Street and T Avenue, and also at a home near Highway 71 and 235th Street. A campground was hit at Hacklebarney Woods, as well as multiple homes along V Avenue and Vine Avenue. Campers were tossed and significant tree damage occurred in this area, but most permanent structures remained standing. The tornado neared its maximum width at this location, and the damage pattern was evident in having a broad area of EF-1 type damage with embedded areas of more intense damage to trees and buildings, likely indicating a multiple vortex tornado. The tornado crossed into Adams County north of 210th Street.
The final tornado noted by the NWS was the Coburg tornado. Its rating was EF0. The estimated peak wind was 75 mph. The path length/statute was .69 miles; the path width/maximum was 40 yards. The tornado started at 7:10 a.m. and ended at 7:11 a.m.
According to the survey summary, emergency management drone imagery showed evidence of a short-lived tornado track through fields in this area, damaging trees along a fence line and near a home.
Hamman also shared details of the ongoing damage assessments taking place in the county.
Initial damage assessments of private residential structures have been completed revealing a total of (28) residential structures impacted by yesterday’s tornadoes in Montgomery County, including (4) identified structures within the City of Red Oak.
• Three homes were destroyed.
• Five homes took major damage.
• 11 homes had minor damage.
• Nine homes had affected damage.
While these numbers only capture residential structures, many private outbuildings, grain bins, vehicles, recreational trailers, and other property have also been significantly damaged and/or destroyed. An estimated dollar amount of private losses is not available currently.
Damage assessment continues to both city owned and county owned property and equipment, however early estimates have already identified well over $2,000,000 in losses.
Power outages are still impacting a large portion of Southwest Iowa REC customers. Information is being shared on their Facebook page as available. The Stanton Viking Center and Community Room is open for charging electronics, locker rooms and showers.
Any residents with immediate unmet needs are encouraged to contact Montgomery County EMA at 712-623-3749 to help facilitate the appropriate service and supplies as needed.
No immediate needs have been identified however the EMA is working with the Southwest Iowa Community Foundation to set up a donation location for those wanting to help support those impacted within Montgomery County, more information to be shared when available.
Current road closures include J Avenue between 210th and 230th streets due to flash flooding and culvert damage, and Hacklebarney Park is closed until further notice.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

Comment Here