Lenox (my hometown) hit by tornado

The last few times my hometown has been “in the news” it’s been because of a movie — The Crazies was partly filmed there — or because of the athletic exploits of the eight-man football team and the baseball team. There’s a sign leading into town that boasts of their championship seasons — a sign that stands on the northwest corner of the farm where my folks lived until their deaths in 1994 and 1999.

But Lenox, Iowa, is in the news today because twin tornadoes touched down in my hometown yesterday afternoon at about 4:40 p.m., damaging homes and businesses in about half the town of 1400 residents.

In the hours since I’ve heard from many colleagues and friends who know of my roots in southwest Iowa and have asked about my relatives.  My relatives are fine. They live several miles south of town, on farms.  My brother and my nephew– the farmers in my family — hooked a flat-bed to a tractor, picked up their chain saws and went into town after the storm passed to use the fading hours of daylight on Wednesday to help clean-up the debris.

My nephew’s wife rode out the storm in the school’s basement (she coaches at Lenox High). My great nephew, McCade, rode out the storm at daycare in a basement on the east side of Lenox.  The twisters tore up the west side of town, ripping roofs off homes, toppling century-old trees.  Free-standing garages exploded.  Drainage tile is wrapped around tree trunks.  My high school classmate Linda says it looks like giant snakes are coiled around the trees.

Highland Park in Lenox with its towering trees is “shredded” according to my brother, who sent me an email at 6:30 this morning with his report on the damage.  Several Main Street businesses in my hometown were damaged. The mayor of Lenox spoke to my Radio Iowa colleague Matt Kelley this morning. I saw on the TV that the house where my elementary art teacher Mrs. Fell used to live took a heavy hit.  An 11-year-old kid who was home alone got a call from his mom, telling him to get into their home’s safest room — the laundry room — because they have no basement.  He crawled into the dryer as the storm bore down and survived unscathed.

Much of the town I grew up in is now scarred by the terrible swipe of a twister, and a good share of the folks in Lenox have no electricity this morning.  But I know the residents in my hometown will gather up the debris, begin repairs and rebuild.  And come Christmas time all of you folks who’ve driven to Lenox each December to see the holiday lighting displays will come back and see a twinkling town transformed both by the strength of Mother Nature and by its strong sense of community spirit.

We found this video (by firemedicadam312) on YouTube.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Diane Bender Stoddard says

    It too is my home town, and there is nothing worse than trying to find out what is happening from far away. I know deep in my heart that Lenox will survive and go on strong. Take Care Iowa, Wyoming will keep you in our prayers as you continue to have dreadful weather.

  2. Tim Beach says

    I’m in Washington state now, and the first I heard about this was in a text message from my sister, Jan: “We r ok. Havent been able to get to see the house, know there is damage.” I’ve been checking out the vidoes and pictures, and I’m glad nobody was hurt.