EF-1 tornado draws destruction in Dysart

Heidi Spore stands outside her family’s home in Dysart that was severly damaged during a tornado on July 14. Water damage from the storm will require the Spores to replace much of the walls and ceilings in their house, which will displace them for the next few months. Photo by Søren Peterson

Another bout of dangerous weather hit northern Tama County last week.

A tornado touched down in Dysart on the evening of July 14 and was one among 26 tornadoes reported across the state that day. The tornado arrived just under one year from the 2020 derecho and was three days removed from the 10 year anniversary of the 2011 derecho.

The series of storms produced the third most tornadoes in a single day in the state of Iowa since records began being kept in 1980.

The tornado was categorized as an EF-1 with winds peaking at 95-100 mph. It touched down at 7:04 p.m. north of the Dysart Cemetery and traveled just over one mile east crossing X Avenue and Highway 21 before dissipating at 7:07 p.m.

No injuries were reported, though damage occurred down Blaine Street and Park Street.

Power was out in the city from 7 p.m. Wednesday night to around 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Crews from the cities of Traer, Vinton, La Porte City and Cedar Falls travelled in to assist Dysart Public Works in their efforts to restore power.

The path of the tornado touched the southern most portion of Dysart city limits with some structure damage being reported along with several downed trees and flattened corn fields.

Most residents who experienced damage were able to remain in their homes with the exception of a couple serious incidents.

Chad and Heidi Spore live with their children on Blaine Street along the southwest corner ot Dysart. Their home was significantly damaged by the tornado and they expect to be displaced from their home for the next few months.

Heidi said most of her kids were home when the tornado hit as the family was preparing for their daughter’s wedding coming up in early August.

Debris is cleared from the home of John and Pamela Thiele on July 15, a day after an EF-1 tornado moved through the southwest part of Dysart. Photo by Søren Peterson

Weather reports began to come in during the early evening indicating tornado activity was headed toward Dysart.

Heidi gathered her kids, one who is differently abled, and moved to the basement that evening.

She recalled looking out a basement window and seeing what looked like a normal thunderstorm, until things changed.

“Something just changed qualitatively about the storm,” Spore said. “When the windows started to shake and the wind was going really hard I said, ‘Alright kids, let’s get back into the hallway.'”

Moments later, the power went out and they started to feel their ears popping as the tornado hit the house and tore off around a third of their roof.

Pieces to a child’s playset lay leaning against flattened corn in a field along Fairview Street in Dysart. The damage came as a result of an EF-1 tornado that hit Dysart on the evening of July 14. Photo by Søren Peterson

What followed next was a period of chaos as their home was literally and figuratively turned inside out.

As the family emerged from shelter they could feel the outside air moving around the house in an unnatural way and saw insulation from the damaged rooms scattered throughout their living areas.

With a third of their roof removed, water poured in and smoke alarms started to go off, startling the family’s dogs into barking.

“I knew we had to get out of the house because there was no room to go to that didn’t have glass, or water, or chaos from the smoke alarms going off,” Spore said.

The family quickly got themselves to their vehicles outside and as they were regrouping, help began to arrive.

A tree carried by the July 14 tornado crashed through the roof of Pat Hansen’s porch on Blaine Street in Dysart. Damage to residential property was largely contained to a six block area along Blaine and Park. Photo by Søren Peterson

“Ryan and Laura Moody were in my family room within 10 minutes of the whole thing happening,” Spore said. “Then firefighters arrived and asked if everyone was ok as they did their welfare check. And people just showed up with tarps and plywood and plastic storage bins for us to put our photos in. I jokingly told Ryan, ‘We needed Jesus and he sent you.’ And he jokingly said, ‘Well, that must have been a disappointment.’ But it wasn’t at all because God works through people. We are the ones that show up, we’re the hands and the feet that show up. He sent an army of people and I’m so thankful that we have this community and our friends and family.”

Spore said in the hours and days following the tornado, she saw the high school football team out helping with clean up and local businesses like LB’s Pizza and Bobby’s Grocery out giving away food and water to feed the crews working on houses and yards. By the end of the next day, much of the debris that had scattered throughout the neighborhood had been cleaned up and house roofs were getting tarped, patched and ready to repair.

Due to the amount of water damage sustained during the tornado, the Spores are anticipating the need for most of their house to be brought down to the studs to mitigate the damage.

They’ve relied on a network of family and friends to provide them short-term housing and have found a place to rent while their house is being restored over the next several months.

An online fundraiser was organized by Heidi’s cousin Rachel Roeth through GoFundMe to assist the Spore Family with their insurance deductible and recovery expenses. Through the first five days of the fundraising campaign, 112 donors had contributed just under $12,000 to assist the family.

Dysart Public Works crews remove storm debris along the west side of Zion Lutheran Church on Main Street following the EF-1 tornado that swept through Dysart on July 14. The tornado caused no injuries but several homes in the southwest area of town sustained damage. Photo by Søren Peterson

“Knowing that there are so many people who love us and want to bless us is just humbling and amazing,” Spore said. “Some of the people giving are those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and they are sharing what they have with us. And that makes us want to be more generous going forward. We don’t deserve any of this or expect any of this, but we really really are thankful.”