Weather Service will determine if fatal storm near Adair was a tornado

ADAIR COUNTY, IOWA — What may be Iowa’s first tornado of 2019 claimed a life early this morning in the southwest corner of the state.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Chad Hahn says there is severe storm damage in both Adair and Cass counties and at least one house was destroyed south of the city of Adair. Reports say several other homes were impacted.  “We’re still evaluating that,” Hahn says. “We have a storm team that’s out in the area evaluating and assessing the damage. The one homestead that we know was hit was close to the interstate, which was closed down for a time in the early morning hours.”

Adair County authorities say 74-year-old Linda Brownlee was killed in the storm and her husband, 78-year-old Harold Brownlee, was seriously hurt and is hospitalized in Des Moines. Hahn says the team that surveying the wreckage will be working to determine whether the destruction was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.

The biggest signs that we look for is the damage pattern within the debris,” Hahn says. “We can evaluate whether there is a rotational component to that and that’s what they’re examining out there right now.” If it was a tornado, Hahn says it’s very unusual to have a twister strike at that hour, sometime between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. He says only about five-percent of tornadoes hit during the nighttime.

The risk of more severe weather today is low, but Hahn says the chances are higher Thursday, especially in southeast Iowa. “As we look into Friday, we can expect portions of the southeastern part of the state to be in that area where conditions will be favorable for severe weather,” Hahn says. “It’s late May. We know the conditions around here are becoming more susceptible to severe weather and we need to stay on guard.”