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Tornado warning in Winterset was delayed, but still had significant lead time

Although residents in Winterset initially got a 29-minute lead time from when the tornado warning was issued until it hit parts of town, that number was reduced.

WINTERSET, Iowa — The EF-4 tornado that struck Winterset on Saturday evening peaked with winds of 170 mph, and took six lives in Madison County.

But there was a problem with the tornado warnings being issued by the National Weather Service in Des Moines, and it wasn't the weather forecast office's fault.

Focusing on the Winterset tornado, the initial warning was issued at 4:11 p.m., but the alert did reach the public until 4:20 p.m., over nine minutes later.

At 4:26 p.m., the tornado touched down just north of Macksburg, strengthening as it approached Winterset. It struck John Wayne's hometown at 4:40 p.m.

That resulted in a 29-minute initial lead time from the warning being issued to when southern parts of Winterset were hit. According to the NWS, that's about double the national average of 10 to 15 minutes.

After reaching out to the National Weather Service Public Affairs office in Washington, a representative told Local 5 that the situation is under investigation and that a statement would be provided. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday that statement has not been provided.

Nonetheless, thanks to the Des Moines office of the NWS, more lives were saved than lost on Saturday.

"When they tell you to take cover on TV, you have to heed the advice and take cover," Don Houg, a Winterset resident who survived a direct hit from the tornado, told Local 5.

For more information on how to help those affected by the March 5, 2022 tornadoes, click here or text HELP to 515-457-1026.

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