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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — National Weather Service crews were dispatched Monday to assess the damage caused by a tornado that tore through Lake City, uprooting trees, ripping apart the roof of a high school and leaving shreds of pink insulation strewn throughout the streets.
After examining the scene in the central Iowa city, the Weather Service assigned the Sunday night tornado an EF1 rating. It's the second-weakest tornado rating, but with peaks winds of 100 mph, the Lake City twister was obviously dangerous.
The tornado ripped off half the roof from South Central Calhoun High School, where about 100 people were inside at an event, said Stephen O'Connor, of the Calhoun County Emergency Management office. No one inside the building was hurt, but the school was badly damaged.
Immediately after the tornado, the area was hit by high winds and baseball-size hail that caused more damage, O'Connor said.
"Between those two, it's hard to tell what damage is from one and what is from the other," he said.
Mayor Gary Fahan said nearly 600 volunteers turned out to clear up debris littering yards and roadways, and Calhoun County officials scoured the area to evaluate how the community fared.
Classes have been canceled at the high school until further notice, Fahan said, meaning seniors would be dismissed early ahead of graduation Sunday. As for the rest of the students, he said he's unsure when, where and even if they'll be able to finish out the last couple weeks of the school year.
The first report from trained spotters came in around 7:15 p.m. Sunday in Carroll County, confirming a tornado moving north toward Lake City. Initial observations indicate trees up to 3 feet in diameter were torn from the ground in Lake City, and damage spanned two blocks.
The weather service's assessment concluded the twister continued for about 20 ½ miles after touchdown, consuming a path approximately ¼-mile wide through much of rural Calhoun County before hitting Lake City. It knocked down power lines on the west side of nearby Rockwell City before dissipating about two miles north of the city.
American Red Cross spokeswoman Kara Kelly said a shelter was opened Sunday night to provide food and water to Lake City residents. Vehicles were loaded with meals and snacks for delivery to cleanup crews and families working amid the wreckage, she said. Salvation Army disaster relief teams from Fort Dodge were also on scene to offer support.
Gov. Terry Branstad declared a disaster emergency in Calhoun County on Monday and visited Lake City. The declaration allows state resources to be used in recovery efforts and makes some households eligible for a program that helps pay for repairs.
MidAmerican Energy spokeswoman Ashton Newman said Lake City residents likely wouldn't have power returned until late Monday night at the earliest. Electricity was restored to most Rockwell City customers by midday Monday.
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