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Revisiting the Mapleton, Iowa Tornado

I was in the town Mapleton, Iowa as it was hit by a tornado April 9, 2011. Today I retrieved some archived Mesoscale Analysis charts just to refresh my memory of what the Mapleton day looked like from a meteorological standpoint. Thought I’d post them here along with some screen grabs and the complete video below.



The Mapleton tornado developing overhead southwest of my position.


This is the view out my windshield as the tornado is entering town and headed directly toward me.


This is the view over my left shoulder as I escape to the west.


The tornado was very dirty and appeared to be getting larger!

Stephen Locke

I reposition well to the west as I am concerned the tornado track will hook left as they often do. The kidney shaped damage path above confirms the left hook and you can see the tornado struck my original position.


I end the chase and return to town to see if  I can be of any assistance. The engine was still running in this GMC truck but I could not find the driver.

Watch the entire video above.

Do you have any memories of the Mapleton tornado? If so, please leave comments below!

Sam DeMaranville - April 9, 2014 - 1:34 am

Excellent footage. Really one of the best I have seen as far as a complete follow up after the fact. A few years ago I spent time as a volunteer in Greensboro Kansas. I wasnt there until about a week after, but took many tapes of footage of the cleanup process….keep up the good work, and most of all be safe.Thanks

Molly Buettner Petersen - April 9, 2014 - 3:28 am

I remember the evening of the Mapleton tornado well! I live 13 miles outside of town and had worked outside all day. Nearby Danbury had set off their tornado sirens and I got my camera out. Tornado sirens go off often enough around here that I wasn’t too worried. I am on the Danbury Ambulance and couldn’t believe it when my pager went off… They named so many surrounding towns all in one page that it seemed they were listing every single town in Woodbury County (the county Danbury is in). All were to report to Mapleton for a direct hit by a tornado. My heart sank for Mapleton as I worried about all of my friends and students there. (I graduated from high school in Mapleton and was in my 10th year of teaching in the district.) The response from local communities’ ambulance crews, Urban Search & Rescue team members and their dogs, county emergency disaster experts, law enforcement, and so many others was AMAZING. For the amount of damage done and considering the fact that the high school was putting on a play when the tornado hit, it was a miracle that there were so few injuries and no deaths. I spent HOURS in Mapleton over the next few days doing so many different things… helping the few patients we did have, delivering coffee and donuts or lunch or cold water to the residents that couldn’t get downtown to eat, directing an overwhelming amount of traffic during the clean-up in the days that followed (because the 1 stoplight in town wasn’t working after the tornado), helping volunteers register themselves and the equipment they brought with them, helping residents clean up their yards (I helped one gal in particular and still often think of her, wondering how she is doing & if she got everything she needed), and listening as people told and retold their stories. My elementary students will still talk about this day. I took many pictures of the events that unfolded because I knew that people would eventually have time to sit down and remember what happened. The days would likely be a blur and many may want to see photos of what other areas of town looked like that they couldn’t get to. Or they may want pictures of what their homes and businesses looked like. As I look back through those pictures I am amazed at them every time. Mapleton’s businesses and citizens have worked hard and should be proud of what they have done over the last few years. The town is looking great!
I also remember the first time I saw your video, Stephen. It is the best quality video I have seen of the tornado and the fact that you came back to check on people and help was great!! Thanks for sharing this post!

Karl Mccall - April 9, 2014 - 4:14 am

I use to live in Mapleton my house was still standing but my neighbors house was flatten next to it

Sherry Welte - April 9, 2014 - 5:24 am

I was one of Danbury Ambulance’s crew that night and we were the first Ambulance to arrive(Mapleton’s Ambulances were trapped in their shed with debris) I remember it was so very dark and we worked our way to main street,stopping and 2 of us getting out to move large chunks of brick and large pieces of wood just so we could get to the staging area we were called to help one patient and had a terrible time getting to his house thru several large trees in the street Using flashlight it was still very hard to find patient and get thru debris broken glass everywhere We stayed in staging for hours as the fire dept and cops searches every house We treated a few minor injuries & waited to be of assistance to anyone Finally after all buildings were cleared we were allowed to go home around 4:30 AM. Very Long stressful night,glad we could help & that no lives were lost. God stood over us that night & protected us!!!

Emily Peters - April 9, 2014 - 2:31 pm

I used to live in Mapleton and if we were still living in the same place, our house would have been flattened. We shoul have lost everything. I remember this day, when I learned there was a tornado in my hometown, my heart sunk. I phoned family as soon as I could. I visited a couple days after, it was juss a mess. I saw homes I hung out at as a teen, just gone. I will always love Mapleton. They’ve come a long way. <3

Chele Johannes Giger - April 9, 2014 - 5:24 pm

Daaaang I remember those tornados living in Iowa one haunts me to this day that hit Farley and almost sucked me right out my front door…so glad no casualties here!! Have me goose bumps and flash backs.

Haley Seboe - April 9, 2014 - 7:55 pm

My siblings and I were home alone when we heard the sirens go off. A few minutes later we lost power and so lost contact with my parents. We were in the basement with a mattress over us listening to the tornado outside. I will never forget climbing up the stairs and the view I saw from our window. We were at the edge of the damage, but even that was terrible.

Ashley Flammang Porter - April 9, 2014 - 9:38 pm

I remember running to the basement with my family as it hit our house

Joye Cates Thetford - January 21, 2015 - 4:14 pm

Tommy Thetforf

Bryan Tyler Peterson - January 22, 2015 - 3:03 am

I was a reserve deputy living in Mapleton that day. I remember good friends losing everything that day. I remember a truck driver hauling anhydrous coming into our house because he didn’t know what was happening. I remember the selfless act of Tony Davis. He lost his home and business but still was doing his duty as an officer. Most of all I remember to outpouring of help for the community from all over. It made me proud to be apart of it.

Jonathan Davis - April 11, 2015 - 3:41 am

Tony Davis

Lexie Hope Gosch - January 22, 2016 - 2:13 pm

I remeber that day like it was just yesterday

Ben Weber - January 22, 2016 - 8:16 pm

Was in the Mapleton elementary school doing a play with classmates and we (actors and audience) all hid in the old locker rooms below the stage. When we were allowed to leave, it basically looked like a small hell on the town.

Todd Fried - January 23, 2016 - 2:44 am

I remember missed a direct hit by about 2 blocks my house faired pretty well but not my neighbors. Will never forget

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