Monticello has an interesting past of severe weather

Posted May 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks

It was noted last week in the local news that May 15 marked a unique milestone in Iowa. That date was a record-breaking 356 days since the State of Iowa had seen or been hit by a tornado.

The last tornado reported in Iowa was on May 24, 2012, in Fayette County.

As I’m writing this column, the sky looks quite ominous outside, with threats of severe weather spanning all across Iowa.

Hearing the stories of monstrous tornadoes that have swept across Iowa in years past, I decided to do a little research of my own. I dug up some stories in the Monticello Express about massive tornadoes that have hit the Monticello area and Jones County in the past.

Keep in mind, the instances I’ve noted are just a few of the many articles I was able to locate. As meteorology and weather radar improved over the years, reports of tornadoes became more legit versus just strong windstorms that people misidentified as tornadoes.

If I mentioned all of the tornadoes to hit this area in the past, my column would go on and on.

On July 13, 1992, a tornado hit the Scotch Grove area, causing half a million dollars in damage to residents’ homes, farms and businesses.

The Express reported that the storm destroyed homes, buildings, splintered trees and threw vehicles around. The good news, no deaths or injuries were reported.

A group of Iowa Mennonites arrived in the Scotch Grove area on July 18 to assist in clean-up efforts.

A month after the tornado hit, the community and others came together for a fundraiser on Aug. 14. They raised several thousands of dollars for the tornado victims.

Nayor Seed Company even held a post-tornado survival party on Sept. 11, 1992, to help celebrate the construction of a new building.

On Sept. 28, 1972, a tornado swept through the Monticello countryside, hitting northwest of the city. It caused damage to area farms, two homes were demolished and many others severely damaged. Some 14 farms were hit and two people were reported injured.

One very crazy story to come out of this article involved rural Monticello resident Stan Cook. The Express article said he was working on his father’s farm in Castle Grove Township, when the storm hit. Cook received minor injuries when he was picked up by the tornado and carried some 200 feet.

Also, the homes of Dr. John Randolph and Vince Haag were completely demolished.

A tornado hit this area on May 4, 1964, seriously injuring one local woman. Numerous farm buildings were damaged and destroyed in the wake of the tornado that skipped through the countryside west of Monticello.

Miss Emma Arnold, 64, of rural Monticello was later reported to be in fair condition at John McDonald Hospital the day after the storm. She suffered burns over 40 percent of her body when a hot wood-burning stove overturned on top of her. Her home was demolished in the Hardscrabble area.

A neighbor boy, John Bader, 16, was credited with saving Miss Arnold’s life. He lifted the stove off her and helped her brother wrap her in a blanket. He then went to the George Rieniets home to call for help.

The Herman Steuri and Dean Tedrow farms were also hit.

Going back to 1914, a tornado hit here on May 3, in southeast Jones County, leaving in its wake a path of destruction, without life or injury to life.

The buildings on the John Rohwedder farm in Madison Township sustained $10,000 worth of damage, a lot of money in that time.

Every house in the village of Hale was damaged. Houses, barns and trees were razed to the ground, a total of $100,000 in damage.

A heavy storm of hail accompanied the windstorm, breaking many windows. Some horses and pigs died as a result of the storm.

The village of Hale and town of Wyoming were in the path of the tornado. The Express said the devastation was considerable!

One of the earliest reports of a tornado in the Express occurred on Oct. 8, 1878, rather late in the season for such storms.

The multiple headlines and sub headlines read: “Wreck and Ruin!” “A dozen houses totally demolished and splintered into kindling.” “The Catholic Church… Where is it?” “Many families made homeless and destitute.”

The article reports that “the Catholic Church is the worst wreck of all.” Nothing was left of the church but the foundation wall, a portion of the floor and some pews. “The rest of it is scattered in every direction, fragments of it half a mile away.”

As you can see, this area has a varied history of tornadic activity, though that’s not uncommon in Iowa or the Midwest.

If you want to research more information on this topic, visit the Monticello Express archive page found at