On This Day in Iowa Weather History – May 21, 2004 Tornado Outbreak

On May 21, 2004, a significant severe weather outbreak began that morning and continued across the state throughout the day/evening and lasted well into the following morning on the 22nd. There were 16 tornadoes that occurred across Iowa including one that injured 15 people in and around the small town of Bradgate, Iowa. The Bradgate tornado was rated an F2 (before the EF scale came into effect).  Another significant tornado just west of Bradgate was a F1 in Rolfe. One thing to note, the Bradgate tornado began just south of the town of Rolfe and in this location was rated F2 (See Survey Map). Below are several damage photos from the NWS survey team along with a few aerial shots courtesy of KCCI and John McLaughlin.  There is also a quick loop of the storm relative velocity data for the Bradgate tornado. In addition to the multitude of tornadoes, large hail was reported across the state including softball sized hail in Spencer.  In fact, there were two separate incidents where softball hail fell, first with a storm around 10 am and then again with another storm around 4 pm. Some of the storms also produced very heavy rainfall and flooding with accumulations of 4.75 inches at Emmetsburg, 5.14 inches at Decorah, and 6.10 inches at Mason City.

NWS Damage Survey from the May 21, 2004 Bradgate/Rolfe F2/F1 tornadoes respectively.

NWS Damage Survey from the May 21, 2004 Bradgate/Rolfe F2/F1 tornadoes respectively.

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Blog post by Kenny Podrazik – NWS Des Moines

 

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