Storm Spotters Witness Monster Tornado in Iowa's Heartland

Massive Tornado Levels Hundreds of Buildings but Death Toll Is Low

The destruction throughout the town was even worse than he expected. "It was unrecognizable," he said. "I mean, this was wiped clean, foundations knocked off their, their base -- cars flipped, people -- not knowing what was left from right. I was scared to death."

Chief deputy Wolthoff, who immediately starting searching for survivors in the storm's aftermath, had a similar response to the wreckage.

"It felt like I was in a landfill," he said. "Everything was just destroyed. … My main concern at that point was the loss of life. You didn't know what was what. … It was just heart-wrenching."

Wolthoff credits the low fatality rate to a number of factors: the holiday weekend meant many people were out of town and the tight-knit community responded quickly to the tornado sirens.

Ultimately, though, he thinks it was a miracle. "The good Lord was on our side," he said.

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