Iowa Farm Begins Tornado Recovery

Widespread Destruction Seen in Iowa Countryside From EF-4 Tornado

Jennifer Carrico
By  Jennifer Carrico , Senior Livestock Editor
A toy tractor sits on the edge of the Queck farm west of Orient, Iowa with a pile of debris in the background where a cattle barn used to stand. The farm was destroyed by the May 21 EF-4 tornado. (DTN photo by Jennifer Carrico)

ORIENT, Iowa (DTN) -- All that's left of the original 1930s Queck family farmstead is a lilac bush. An EF-4 tornado destroyed the farm west of Orient on May 21.

Paul and Abbey Queck had moved to the farm six years ago to continue the legacy which had been started by his parents, Steve and Dara and grandparents, Bob and Barb. Bob's father was the one who purchased the farm in the 1930s and Paul hopes his sons Henry and Hudson will want to be the fifth generation to farm the ground and raise cattle in southwest Iowa.

Paul said he was watching the storm after they were alerted to the weather. "I could see it in the distance and watched for a while. I told Abbey we either needed to leave right away or we had to ride it out," he said. The family took shelter in their basement. They could hear the tornado coming. When it hit, the house was taken, and a wall fell on them. When they came out from under a blanket, nothing was above.

"I figured I'd come up and see something," Paul said. "I called my dad and said, 'There's absolutely nothing. Nothing is left. We are safe, but there is nothing here.' He really didn't believe me at first."

As they exited the basement, there was no floor or subfloor. A storm chaser was the first on the scene. As they moved toward his vehicle, cattle wandered around; yet the family knew it was important to get to safety and be checked out. Paul and the boys had bumps, bruises and scratches. Abbey's injuries were a little more extensive, with fractures to several vertebrae. She is in a brace and will be until the healing is complete. Mostly they are all thankful the family will be okay.

"This is sticks and nails that can be replaced. A tornado went right over these kids, and they are okay," said Bob. "Thank the Lord for that."


Nearby Greenfield had extensive destruction of houses and other structures. At least 35 injuries were reported in the town and four deaths. The tornado originated near Montgomery and Page Counties in southwest Iowa and strengthened as it moved. The damage path in Greenfield was about 1 mile wide and destruction happened in about one minute according to National Weather Service officials. It dissipated as it moved north of Greenfield.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig toured the area on May 24, starting in Greenfield and moving to the rural areas to see how the rural areas and farms fared. "This is unfortunately a very good example of a total loss," he said of the Queck farm. "House is gone, livestock and equipment are impacted. Any farmer knows those things dollar up very quickly. We want people to understand a farm is a home, it's a business and it's also a family generational business. This farm is close to being a Century Farm. There have been tough times in history, but this will be one of the hardest things that happen in that stretch."

The tornado lifted Queck's old house and moved it across the farmstead. Paul said the rooms were still somewhat recognizable, but almost everything was destroyed. The shop, sheds, cattle barn and pens were also leveled. They did lose several head of cattle and many had injuries treated by local veterinarians. Some of the cows and calves are still missing, but they have some hope of finding them -- a calf was found three days after the storm and seemed okay.


Naig said through it all he has been encouraged but not surprised by the perspective people have had, "Most people will say 'This is just stuff. We are okay.'"

The immense area of debris was mentioned by Naig as well, and the importance of picking it up while crops are small. It's an overall effort for many miles with volunteers helping both in the town and the countryside. Students from Earlham, where Abbey is a teacher, visited the farm to help, as did students from the Interstate 35 school at Truro, Iowa, where Paul's sister is an administrator. They estimate nearly 1,000 people have helped them in the past several days.

Gov. Kim Reynolds declared the area of disaster status and with the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, federal disaster assistance is available to the state of Iowa to supplement recover efforts in the areas affected by the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding from May 20 and 21. This is available for Adair, Montgomery, Polk and Story counties.

"I want to thank President Biden for expediting my request for federal assistance," Reynolds said in a statement. "This assistance is critical to Iowa's recovery process." Residents in these counties can apply for FEMA's Individual Assistance Program, which provides disaster-affected homeowners, renters, and businesses with programs and services to maximize recover, including assistance with housing, personal property replacement, medical expenses, and legal services. This assistance is available online at or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

To help out those affected by the Greenfield tornado, visit,…, or…

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Jennifer Carrico