At 4 p.m. on May 21, 1918, a deadly tornado destroyed the northeastern section of Boone, killing eight people and injuring more than 60.
The storm began near Bouton in Dallas County and traveled northeast through Boone County, jumping the Des Moines River at the 16 to 1 Bridge, before rampaging on to Boone. It was one of at least three tornadoes to strike Boone County that afternoon. Destruction to homes, businesses and at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Yards was extensive, approaching $1 million in damages.
The Boone News Republican carried numerous dramatic accounts of the storm:
“The storm broke with a great roar which could be heard over the city and miles through the country. It could be seen forming. Great masses of black, then grey, and at times almost fiery red clouds could be seen, churning themselves into the fury that was spent in [over] the defenseless people of this city and vicinity. People in the city proper noticed the peculiar looking clouds at 3:45 Tuesday and watched them for about ten minutes. All felt the storm coming from the southwest could not pass without sweeping directly through the business portion of the city… Suddenly the storm seemed to veer off to the east and instead of coming up Boone and Story streets as threatened, passed east…”
The storm struck “at First street… It swept up Jackson Street and took everything in its wake from First and Delaware east and north… Houses were tossed about… Barns and sheds were carried through the air, people were picked up… livestock, chickens, etc. were scattered about and… killed. In several cases entire houses were wiped off the horizon, leaving nothing but the foundations and cellars filled with debris…”
The CN&W railroad yards suffered severe damage. “One hundred and twenty-seven cars were made into kindling.” Bunk cars “were tossed about like boxes. The great steel window frames with the wired glass in the big shops building were whipped out their fastenings and the glass in almost powdered condition scattered over scores of workmen inside the building. The day became almost black as night as the storm engulfed the east end of the town…” Railroad workers could not see what was happening.
The Boone tornados were part of a much larger Iowa tornado outbreak that day, including three in Greene County. Damage and casualties were reported in Dayton, Harcourt, Churdan, Carroll, Newton, Walker, Eldora and Dubuque. The Bethel Church between Ogden and Boone was smashed.