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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 24, 2017

Keosauqua business owner swept up in tornado

By RUSTY EBERT | May 09, 2014
Photo by: RUSTY EBERT Joe Wasko tries on a new pair of eyeglasses to replace the ones broken when he was picked up by a tornado while he was at an auction in Ottumwa.

OTTUMWA – A Keosauqua business owner says he was fortunate after being swept up in a tornado, April 27, while at an auction in Ottumwa for his aunt and uncle’s estate.

Joe Wasko avoided head injury and narrowly escaped having his leg run over by a car. Outside of bruises and soreness, Wasko is doing okay. His eyeglasses were smashed during the ordeal.

“It all happened so fast,” Wasko said.

Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller said at least four people were injured when they were struck by flying debris at the auction on Ottumwa’s south side. He said the storm came abruptly and they weren’t able to take cover.

“They determined that it was an F1 tornado, with 108 miles per hour winds,” said Joe Wasko. “I checked and the range for an F1 tornado is 73 to 112 miles per hour, so it was on the strong end of an F1 tornado.”

The tornado struck towards the end of the auction around 3 p.m.

“I was walking on the grass to our truck and I noticed that it was sprinkling.”

Wasko noticed that instead of going in one direction, the rain was swirling.

“It was weird. But just like that, I was in the middle of the street. I really don’t remember how high it picked me up but at the time, I thought it just threw me to the side of the street where the parked cars were. Then I saw the wheels turning and decided that it wasn’t a parked car. I realized that I was thrown in the middle of the street. The wheel was just going up my leg and I was able to pull it away from the car and I crawled to the curb. At some point, I couldn’t take a breath and suppose that’s because of the air vacuum from the tornado. After I got to the curb, I just laid there and waited. Susan had hoped I was in our truck and not outside when it happened.”

Susan was at the camper getting ready to pay.

“She saw the flying glass.”

“There was a Gator which was moving across the driveway and it took four or five guys to stop it.”

Susan found Joe and asked him if he was okay and Joe told her what happened.

“I was very fortunate,” Joe said. “There was trash all over the place.”

Joe compared it to a war zone.

“Martin Auction had one table which was tossed up into the tree and ended with a branch sticking through it.”

After paying the cashier, they went to their pickup.

“We had to wait for all the fire trucks and ambulances.”

After the auction, Joe’s aunt and uncle were picking up debris and came across his Wasko Hardware cap, and eyeglasses, which were smashed.

“They told someone they knew who that belonged to and gave it to me,” Joe said.


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