A Tornado Came One Early Evening in 1968

A Great Example of a Tornado

A great example of a tornado
A great example of a tornado | Source

What is a Tornado?

A tornado is a funnel shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground that is rotating. Tornadoes are spawned from thunderstorms that are powerful and are called super cells. Tornadoes pick up a lot of dirt and any thing that is in their path, which gives the tornado its dark color.The word tornado comes from the Spanish tronado. Tronado means thunderstorm in Spanish.

Tornado's are nature's most violent storms, can and have killed, and caused a lot of property damage. Tornado's can develop with little or no warning. The wind may die down and the air can become very still, just before the tornado hits. It is the super cells that are most likely to spawn tornadoes.

How Tornadoes Form

Elma, Iowa and Mom

A photo of my mother when she was young in Elma, Iowa. The photo is very old.
A photo of my mother when she was young in Elma, Iowa. The photo is very old.
My grandmother with family in Elma, Iowa many years ago. The photo is very old.
My grandmother with family in Elma, Iowa many years ago. The photo is very old.


When I was young I lived in a small town in Iowa named Elma. Elma is in Howard County located in the northeast corner of the state of Iowa. I remember May 15, 1968 was a really hot and muggy day-hotter than usual. I went to school that day and after school was out I was at home. It was in the early evening, before 5 p.m. and my eldest sister was making one of those Genos pizza mixes that came in a box, for supper. While my sister was making the pizza, she was going on about a picture of a woman in a science book from school.The woman in the science book had a disease that was horrific. I ran over to our grandma's house (she lived across an alley from us) and told her and my other sister about the story eldest my sister was telling. My other sister lived with our grandma at the time. Then I ran back to our house to tell my sister what they said. I ran back and forth between the two houses going on about the story of the woman in the science book. As I was running back and forth between the two houses, I noticed that the wind was getting stronger each time that I crossed back and forth. Finally, the last time I crossed back to our house I stayed there.

Tornado Was Aproaching!

My sister and I noticed that the wind had really picked up a lot, as we watched it out of the kitchen window. My older brother was out somewhere, tryiing to make it back home. Its a good thing he was able to get into the house safely, as the wind was really strong by then. The wind was really swirling wildly out there. We three in the kitchen, ddn't know what it was. (It had been a tornado that had just hit Charles City, Iowa). Before the swirling wild wind had stopped I said to the sister and older brother that we better go into the cellar. They both agreed, and as we just started down to the cellar, the swirling wild wind suddenly stopped. So then we didn't have to go down to the cellar afterall. I was glad as both my sister and brother were glad, too, because the cellar wasn't a nice place to be in at all. It had a dirt floor and it wasn't a pleasant place to be in.

Elma, Iowa

A markerElma, Iowa -
Elma, IA 50628, USA
[get directions]

Elma, Iowa in a small farming community located in Howard County in the northeast corner of the state of Iowa. A tornado hit the town on May 15, 1968.

After the Tornado

I remember going out the back door and saw the black top (road) behind the house and I saw that a tree was lying across it not too far away from our house. Later we saw that some of the people's homes had been totally destroyed, and there were high tension wires down and laying on the ground everywhere. My two sisters, myself, and my older brother went around town to see all of the damage. We all were by the school when we saw an uncle who also lived in the town, and he told us that we better go home, because the tornado might come back. That scared us, so we went home.

It was completely dark at night; as there was no power for a few days. The power did finally get fixed and was back on again. It was awful being in complete darkness for a few nights. The National Guard was there to help out for a few days until things got back to more normal. People built new homes to replace their old homes that the tornado had destroyed. Not too long after wards, things in the town turned back to a more normal way of life, like it was before the tornado hit.

Written Somewhere North of Elma, Iowa

The Tornado

On May 15, 1968 the town of Charles City, Iowa was hit hard by a F5 tornado. I remember hearing about all of the damage that the tornado did, which was devastating and there were lives that were lost. Charles City is a larger town than Elma, and the damage was the greatest there in Charles City.The tornado hit Elma at 5: 25 p.m, just after it had hit Charles City at 4:50 p.m. There were no tornado sirens then, so no one was warned about the tornado that struck that early evening all those years ago. I thought that the tornado was real scary--I never saw the funnel-- just the wind swirling wildly around outside the kitchen window.

Tornado in Charles City, Iowa

Tornado in Charles City

A markerCharles City, Ia -
Charles City, IA 50616, USA
[get directions]

Another Video of Charles City, Ia Tornado

Signs of Possible Tornadoes Approaching

There are signs that may indicate that tornadoes may be approaching. A dark, often greenish sky, large hail, a low-lying cloud that may be rotating. Seek shelter if there is rotation in a low-lying cloud, which is a good indication of a tornado developing. Tornadoes are known to make a loud roar, similar to a freight train. Some tornadoes do not make much noise, for example: a tornado going through a field in the country.

Tornadoes are known to move southwest to the northeast, but they can move in any direction. The United States, by far, has the most tornadoes. Tornadoes occur mostly east of the Rockie Mountains, when a warm front meets a cold front. Be alert to weather conditions that can change rapidly, especially when its tornado season. Be aware of the danger-warning signs of powerful thunderstorms (also known as super cells) and the tornadoes that may develop from them.

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Comments 12 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I'll be darned...my family lived in Charles City when that tornado hit. My grandparents survived but the entire downtown was destroyed. Thank you for writing this hub; you are the first person I have been in contact with in decades who has heard of that city and the tornado.

gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

I lived in Charles City, Ia in 1970 when my mother married someone from there. The tornado also hit a small town named: Elma Ia after it had hit Charles City. Your welcome and I'm glad I did write the hub. I'm going to try and find a video about it. Thanks billybuc.

gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

It's a small world-I lived in Elma, Iowa at the time.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

The last time I visited there was 1965...it is a small world. If I remember there is a YouTube video about it.

gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

Yes, I found two videos taken just after it happened, and included both here in the hub. It certainly is a small world.

gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

I found two videos of the aftermath of the tornado that hit Charles City.

hi friends 4 years ago


gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

Thank you for your comment.

Dean 4 years ago

I grew up in Elma too--was 7 when the tornado hit. I still have bad dreams sometimes. I can never forget the way the sky looked--the still stagnant air and the dread we felt as we inched out of our basement after the traumatic passing of the storm. We were fortunate--it only destroyed our trees, porch and garage--but many of our neighbors lost everything. My grandfather was at our house at the time and afterwards we couldn't locate my grandmother. We later found out they were in Charles City--in a car on the road near the railroad tracks by the Oliver plant when it hit. My grandma and aunt ended up in the hospital--lucky to be alive but filled with glass from the shattered car windows.

I will never forget the terror we felt as the storm passed over and the fear it inspired every time we would here loud thundering noises during the night--like freight trains. Our lives changed forever in seconds.

gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

I remember the still stagnant air, too. I remember that it was really hot. Do you know and Stevensons that lived in Elma? I had an Uncle named Lynn who lived in Elma for many years. I have an uncle named Kenny who owned the DX station in Elma who lives in Elma. It was very scary when the tornado hit. Me, my two sisters, brother and grandmother were fortunate, too. Tornados are horrible and frightening. Being filled with glass must of been terrible for your grandma and aunt. Thunder storms scare me. I couldn't imagine being filled with glass-it must of been awful.

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TerryMc1968 4 years ago

If anyone is interested in seeing and learning more about the May 15, 1968 tornado, there are 1,000's of photos and stories on the Charles City Tornado Facebook page. Please feel free to stop by and share your stories. There is a photo album for Elma, Iowa as well. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Charles-City-Tornado/187146094655643

gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City Author

Thanks for the information.

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