Blown away: wind gusts, possible tornadoes reported in western Grundy County

What appears to be a funnel cloud heads toward Conrad in rural western Grundy County on Wednesday evening. (Stephanie McManus/Mid-America Publishing photo)

April showers have brought punishing May windstorms each of the last several years, and 2017 was no exception: on Wednesday evening, heavy rains and gusts reported at over 70 miles per hour ripped through the western half of Grundy County.


“They were some of the strongest winds we’ve ever experienced,” Sheriff Rick Penning said.


According to Penning, only two people were injured in Grundy County during the storms, but 70-year-old James Budlong of Dike was killed in a Butler County accident when his semi overturned. A total of four truck accidents occurred on Highway 20: two semis and a straight truck blew over, and two semis sideswiped each other.  


The tornado sirens sounded in Conrad, and two sightings were reported in the rural area west of town (neither of them confirmed). Conrad went without power for approximately 16 hours after a line came down just west of BCLUW High School, and trees were knocked down throughout the community, perhaps most noticeably in front of MidwestOne Bank on Center Street.


“It’s mostly just limbs… it could’ve been a lot worse,” Grundy County Emergency Management Coordinator Zach Tripp said while assessing the damage. “My big concern is when we’re going to get power back.”


A hog confinement building north of Beaman was flattened, and a cattle feeding structure was destroyed west of Holland. Part of the roof also blew off of one of the cold storage facilities at the county’s secondary roads property just northwest of Grundy Center, and a cattle building on 270th Street between Grundy Center and Conrad suffered partial roof loss.


The power went out briefly in Grundy Center and Wellsburg but was quickly restored, and some Stout residents were still without electricity on Thursday.


“It was worse in the west half of the county than it was in the east, that’s for sure,” Tripp said. “Luckily, I don’t think anybody’s primary residence was severely damaged… Everybody’s working hard to clean up.” 


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