Discover the Iowa Town Most Likely to Be Hit By a Tornado

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: July 9, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Story City, Iowa, has the highest probability of being struck by a tornado among towns in the state.
  • With a Tornado Index score of 341.99, Story City surpasses Iowa’s statewide score of 236.76.
  • From 1950 to 2010, Story City experienced 107 tornadoes, resulting in significant property damage amounting to millions of dollars.

Iowa is a Midwestern state in the United States, known for its production of corn and soybeans. It is bordered by Minnesota to the north, Wisconsin and Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, and Nebraska and South Dakota to the west. The capital city of Iowa is Des Moines, which has a population of around 215,000 people.

In addition to being an agricultural powerhouse, Iowa also has a rich history in education with many well-regarded universities, such as the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. The Hawkeye State also boasts numerous recreational opportunities, including hiking trails at Ledges State Park or boating on Clear Lake.

Iowa experiences a continental-type climate with four different seasons. Summers are hot and humid, while winters can be bitterly cold with frequent snowfall. Spring and fall tend to be mild and pleasant, making them popular times for outdoor activities such as hiking or cycling.

However, Iowa is also known for its severe weather patterns, including thunderstorms and tornadoes that can occur throughout the year. In fact, some parts of Iowa are more prone to tornadoes than others, which has led to a growing interest in determining the towns most likely to be hit by these powerful storms. As a result, many residents of Iowa take precautions during storm season by stocking up on emergency supplies and staying aware of changing weather conditions.

What is a Tornado?

A tornado darkens the sky over a field of wheat.

Tornados can have very high wind speeds.

©Erin D. Maxwell / CC0 – License

A tornado is a violent and dangerous rotating column of air that forms from thunderstorms and reaches the ground. The winds in a tornado can easily exceed 200 miles per hour, causing devastating damage to buildings, trees, and other structures. Tornadoes are most common in the United States but can occur anywhere in the world. They are typically classified on the Enhanced Fujita scale based on their wind speed and damage potential, with EF5 being the strongest category. It’s important for residents living in areas prone to tornadoes to have an emergency plan in place and be prepared to take shelter quickly when severe weather strikes.

The Iowa Town Most Likely to Be Hit By a Tornado

a close up map of Story City. Iowa. USA.

Story City, Iowa, is a 341.99 on the Tornado Index.


Story City Iowa is the town most likely to be hit by a tornado. Story City scores 341.99 on the Tornado Index, compared to the state of Iowa, which scores 236.76. The United States as a whole scores 136.45 on the Tornado Index. Between 1950 and 2010, there were 107 tornados in Story City, Iowa, totaling many millions of dollars of property damage. One particular tornado in 1989 was a magnitude four and ran 19 miles long. It caused 25 million dollars in damage alone. In comparison, the state of Oklahoma ranks 363.83 on the Tornado index, with the city of Valley Brook scoring an astonishing 696.05!

History of Story City

In its early days, Story City was known as Fairview. After establishing a post office, the town found out that the name was already being used for another area and changed it to Story City in 1881, named after Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. During Scandinavian Days, signs mark the original settlement’s boundaries in the northeast corner of current Story City, with the southern border being Broad Street. Story City was planned in 1878 and officially became a city three years later. In 1878, a railroad connected it to Ames and to Des Moines via the Chicago and North Western Railroad in Ames.

Story City, Iowa, has a rich history of cultural connections to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Many of the current residents are descended from immigrants who arrived in the 1840s and 1860s. This is evident in the numerous Lutheran churches in the area, with ministers often preaching in several different languages to reflect the diversity of their congregations.

About Story City

Story City, situated in the center of Iowa and a short drive from Des Moines and Ames, is home to industrial parks, shopping malls, many restaurants, and historic downtown. Several large employers are located in Story City, such as American Packaging, Bethany Life Communities, Eby, and Innovative Lighting. The Story Theatre Grand Opera House is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and has been constantly in use since it opened. During Scandinavian Days and the Yulefest Celebration, Judge Story’s Theatrical Troupe perform at the theater. As one of the most likely places in Iowa to experience a tornado, Story City is worth exploring.

Story City, Iowa, is home to a 1913 Herschell-Spillman antique carousel open to the public daily during the summer. This town has a population of 3,352 and is located alongside the banks of the Skunk River, which is a recreational water trail and the beginning juncture of the Skunk River Canoe Trail. The Story City Park features an antique swinging bridge that was built in 1936 under President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program and was damaged by ice in 2019. Additionally, the Skunk River Greenbelt trail system commences south of Story City. Golfers can enjoy a nine-hole course at River Bend Golf Course, with 2,980 yards of golf and a par of 37. Designed by Charles Calhoun, this course opened in 1971 with a rating of 34.3 and a slope rating of 117 on bluegrass.


Mountain lion perched on a rock near city with humans

Iowa is home to diverse wildlife, including mountain lions.

©Warren Metcalf/

Iowa is a state that boasts an impressive variety of wildlife. From the adorable cottontail rabbits to the majestic bald eagles, this region has no shortage of creatures to observe and appreciate. For those who are interested in seeing some truly unique species, Iowa offers several options.

One fascinating animal that can be found here is the mountain lion. These powerful predators were once nearly extinct in Iowa due to overhunting, but conservation efforts have helped their populations rebound significantly in recent years. Another elusive creature you might come across is the vole – a small rodent that lives underground and feeds on grasses and roots.

If you’re looking for some more unusual animals to catch sight of, keep your eyes peeled for flying squirrels or spotted skunks. Both of these critters have distinctive appearances and behaviors that make them fascinating subjects for observation.

Nature enthusiasts will also want to be on the lookout for ornate box turtles, yellow mud turtles, and great plains skinks – all reptiles that call Iowa home. And if you happen to be near one of the state’s many waterways or lakeshores, don’t forget about bald eagles! These magnificent birds are known for their impressive wingspans and sharp talons.

Whether you’re an experienced naturalist or simply curious about what kinds of creatures live in your backyard, exploring Iowa’s diverse wildlife scene has much to offer any adventurer. So grab your binoculars and hit the trails – who knows what amazing sights await?

Tornados and Wildlife

Eastern cottontail rabbit sitting in the gravel along the edge of a lawn.

Wildlife is negatively affected by tornados in Iowa.


Tornados can have a significant impact on the wildlife of Iowa. The powerful winds and flying debris can cause injury or death to animals caught in their path. Small mammals, like rabbits and squirrels, may be particularly vulnerable as they struggle to find shelter from the storm.

Larger animals, such as deer and coyotes, are more likely to survive but may still experience disruptions in their habitat and food sources. Trees uprooted by tornadoes can create gaps in forested areas that affect animal migration patterns. Additionally, crops destroyed by tornados can leave herbivorous species with limited options for sustenance.

Despite these challenges, some wildlife populations have adapted to living in tornado-prone areas. For example, prairie dogs have been observed using underground burrows to protect themselves during severe weather events.

Overall, while tornados certainly pose risks to both human communities and natural ecosystems alike, it is important for us to consider how we might mitigate these risks for all creatures involved.

Where is Story City, Iowa Located on a Map?

Story City is a city in Story County, Iowa. It is part of the larger Ames, Iowa Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers the entire Story County. When combined with the Boone, Iowa Micropolitan Statistical Area, it forms the bigger Ames-Boone, Iowa Combined Statistical Area.

Here is Story City, Iowa on a map:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Eugene R. Thieszen/

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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