Simpson students impacted by Winterset tornado


Wikimedia Commons

A EF4 tornado tore through Winterset in early march, killing seven people in it’s wake and displacing many more.

by Reagan Hoffman, Staff Reporter

On March 5, an EF4 tornado touched down in central Iowa and traveled through four counties. Many were affected by this massive storm including several members of the Simpson College community. 

The tornado hit Winterset and Norwalk in the evening, leaving homes and buildings destroyed. Several were injured and seven were killed as the tornado ran through nearly 70 miles of central Iowa. 

First-year student Kyle Werner is from Winterset. Werner was headed back to Simpson from South Dakota from a speech and debate tournament when he heard that the tornado landed in his hometown. 

“I heard the weather alert on the radio and I started to freak out, texting my family to make sure they were okay, as well as some close friends that still live in town,” Werner said. “It was a very anxiety-inducing situation not being able to be at home, but also not being able to do anything.” 

Werner’s family home was fortunately far enough north and did not receive any damage during the storm; however, some of his friends’ homes were caught in the tornado’s path. 

“I have quite a few friends who were not so lucky. One of my closest friends back in high school completely lost their home, it’s one of the houses that are all over The Des Moines Register and other news outlets,” Werner said. “I knew the mother of the family that sadly accounted for the deaths in Winterset, not very well, but it’s disarming enough all on its own. It really puts things into a new perspective, and it’s scary to think that if it all had happened just ten miles north, it could’ve been my family.” 

Originally rated an EF3, the National Weather Service upgraded the tornado to an EF4, finding peak winds reached 170 miles an hour. The tornado was 800 yards wide and had the second-longest tornado path in Iowa since 1980.

Garrett Livingston, a junior majoring in English and theatre arts, is also from Winterset. Livingston was on his way home from the performance of “Guys and Dolls” when he heard about the tornado and immediately checked on his family. 

His family was fortunate to not receive any damage or injury from the storm. Some close friends of Livingston did get impacted by the storm. 

“No one in my family was injured and the house remains intact,” Livingston said. “Some of my close friends lost their homes and animals which is sad to think about.” 

Many citizens from all around Iowa went to help with the damage of the storm. The city of Winterset and surrounding areas were on top of it and quickly moving to provide help. 

“The community of Winterset is strong and was willing to help with all problems people had faced with their homes or families,” Livingston said. 

Werner went home on Sunday to provide any help he could but so many were there already it was not needed. 

“I was actually turned away because they had so much help already,” Werner said. “Hundreds of volunteers all over town. It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of support from both within and outside of the community.”