After the Storm: 2:55 p.m. Oct. 14, 1966
Twyla Rockow and her husband, Richard, join a moment of silence during Saturday's 40th-year observance of the Belmond tornado. Her grandfather, Sam Crabree, was one of six people killed by the storm. (Globe Gazette photo by Arian Schuessler) msc

 The tornado siren blasted at 2:55 p.m. Saturday as more than 200 people sat quietly in the Belmond Fire Station.

Many were thinking back back to where they were 40 years ago, at 2:55 p.m. on Oct. 14, 1966, when a tornado devastated this Wright County community.

“What took years to build was destroyed in moments,” said Betty Clare Houser, one of the leaders of the observance. “Today, we recognize many who helped save someone that day.”

Six people died and more than 100 were injured as the community prepared to celebrate Homecoming 40 years ago.

The names of the six, three men and three women, were read and their relatives were asked to stand.

Twyla Rockow, her husband, Richard, and grandson, Jeremy, all stood when the name of 82-year-old Sam Crabtree was read.

“That was my grandfather,” Twyla Rockow said. “I was in town that day, about a block and a half from his home.”

Rockow remembered running to her parents’ home and checking on her mom.

“We saw people running around Grandpa’s house,” she said. “I stayed with my mom.

“My dad found Grandpa,” she continued. “He was downstairs, between the foundation and the house.”

Rockow’s grandmother was injured in the tornado.

Richard Rockow, Twyla’s husband, was in the military in France when the tornado struck.

“I was driving truck and during a stop, read about it in ‘Stars and Stripes,’ ” he said. “It said six people killed in Belmond Iowa. I couldn’t believe it.”

Others who lost their lives in the tornado were Dolores Chapman, 59, who was also found in her home; Mike Kurtz, 66, who was driving a truck; Emma Sorenson, 70, who was found in her home; Ella Pierce, 70, who died when the chimney of her home fell in on her; and John Greenlander, 79, who died when the foundation wall of his home struck him.

Jim Houser, also a master of ceremonies, joined his wife, Betty Clare, in reviewing some of the numbers;

65 Iowa Highway Patrol Officers were in town less than two hours after the tornado touched down.

160 Iowa National Guard troops from units in Eagle Grove and Hampton came to help.

30 members of the American Red Cross provided comfort and aid.

150 power and light workers came to town to restore electricity.

16 tree-trimming companies worked in town.

Between 30 and 40 doctors along with 75 nurses from a 100-mile radius of Belmond converged on the community to provide first aid.

Stories about elementary school students who were taken to the school basement were shared.

Hospital staff members who cared for the injured were praised and thanked.

Several business people and representatives of businesses that still operate where introduced.

Maynard Holmgaard, 83, sat near the front of the gathering.

“His story personifies our community,” said Betty Houser.

“He was on his mail route that October day in 1966. He took shelter in a grain bin and wasn’t found until several hours after the tornado.

“His injuries were very severe and he recovered, getting back on his route in 1968,” she said. “Maynard is still a member of our fire department.”

If you have memories of the Belmond tornado, feel free to record them in the "Comments" box below.Reach Bob Link at 421-0538 or


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