Historical WX: The Tornadoes at Algona and Manson

7am Surface Map Ctsy NOAA

7am Surface Map Ctsy NOAA

Tornadoes in the midwest mainly come from the southwest and move toward the northeast, but at least 1/3 of them move from northwest to the southeast. This was the case on June 28, 1979, when 27 tornadoes dropped out of the sky and moved mainly in a northwest to southeast pattern. The first tornado of the outbreak occurred at 1:45pm just south of Fargo ND. Soon tornadoes dropped in Minnesota as the system moved southeastward.

The first tornado in Iowa hit NW of Algona before 7pm, near the town of Armstrong. Another tornado began SE of the first one and began moving SE toward Algona. The sirens were sounded across the county seat of Kossuth county early that Thursday evening. The tornado moved into the northside of Algona destroying a shopping center. Many in town believed that with Algona situated on the East Fork of the Des Moines River would be safe from tornadoes. The tornado didn’t agree and in fact took water from the river and deposited it in adjacent areas around. Houses were turned into rubble. Prior to the tornado’s arrival at Algona, the Kossuth County Civil Defense Director Bob Engstrom gave a slide presentation on tornadoes at the North Park Shelter House in Algona. After the meeting adjourned, the tornado arrived with audio and visual aids. As the tornado moved began to move into Algona, another town 50 miles to the south southwest, the town of Manson was about to get hit by a tornado.

The tornado which moved slowly across the countryside was seen by many residents in Manson before the white twister moved into the town from the northwest.

Manson Tornado

Manson Tornado

The F4 tornado smashed into the town around 7:45pm (the time the clocks stopped in Manson) destroying every house and business in its path. The oddity of it all was that the town was bathed in sunshine during the tornado. After the tornado mowed through the town, one could look from one end of town to the other only seeing piles of rubble.

3 women were killed in Manson along with 2 others in Algona. The tornadoes continued touching down until 10pm when the last tornado of the outbreak touched down near DeSoto, west of Des Moines.

Feathers reportedly fell from the sky that night between Story City and McCallsburg in Story County northeast of Ames. The feathers supposedly came from a destroyed turkey farm near Manson, 55 miles to the northwest. Several cancelled checks fell from the sky in and around Hampton (in Franklin County). The checks came from Algona.
Article from Ft. Dodge Messenger 6/28/09
Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1979-06-29
AMS Article on the Algona and Manson Tornadoes (with damage pictures)
Tornado Accounts of Tornadoes in Iowa Second Edition by John L Sanford 1987, pages 100-111.

Jeff Wilcox

Weather has always fascinated me since I was young. My first memory of weather was back in 1988 during the Mother’s Day Tornado Outbreak in 1988. I can vaguely remember the cold snap the state experienced around Christmas Time in 1983, but was too young to remember that vividly. Growing up in Anamosa since moving there in 1981, I’ve experienced all the weather imaginable from bitter cold in early 1996 to hot and humid weather in 1995 and again in 2012, to floods in 1993, 1999, 2008 and 2013, Droughts in 1988 and 2012. After doing some other website work and other interests which included publishing a novel in 2007, I finally began the Iowa Weather Blog on June 27th 2008, right after the Flood of 2008. I worked it alone for hours on end giving out weather information that I thought was appropriate for those that wanted to know what was going on in their skies and what was to come. I continue to work on the blog along with the Iowa Weather Network which was created back in 2012 and continue to do so to this day. 

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