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Tornado sirens clear stands at Iowa State

AMES, Iowa -- Tornado sirens forced officials to clear the
stands, press box and suites at Iowa State's Jack Trice Stadium on
Saturday, about an hour before the scheduled start of the Cyclones'
game with No. 22 Colorado.

An Ames police dispatcher said there were reports of a tornado
in the northwest part of the city and twisters damaged houses and
farm buildings in areas south, west and north of the city. But the
area around the stadium had nothing but dark skies and gusty winds
and fans did not seem worried.

"We dodged a bullet with the track of that storm," Iowa State
spokesman John McCarroll said.

Many lingered on the stadium concourse while others walked
around outside as if nothing were happening. Some sought shelter in
Iowa State's indoor practice building. Police urged others to seek
shelter at Hilton Coliseum, the university's basketball arena.

Players who had been on the field warming up were sent to their
locker rooms.

The sirens sounded around 4 p.m. MST -- at the peak of the
tailgating period.

"We just watched the sky and didn't go anywhere, just stood
behind our SUVs," said Al Larsen of Indianapolis, Ind. "A lot of
fans went to Hilton. That's where police were telling them to go.
That was a smart move."

Larsen, however, said he and his friends were ready to move if
they had to.

"There was a ditch nearby if we needed it and we could always
have gone to Hilton," he said. "It seemed to skirt Ames to the
northwest, so we weren't worried."

The start of the game was delayed 30 minutes.

McCarroll said the university and local law enforcement agencies
began planning on Friday for the possibility of severe weather
hitting before the game. It was decided then that several buildings
would be opened as storm shelters if needed, including Hilton, C.Y.
Stephens Auditorium and the veterinary medicine building, which is
near a tailgating area.

"There were no injuries, there was no panic," McCarroll said.
"The bottom line is things went very, very well."

Not every part of the state was as fortunate as Ames. Tornadoes ripped up farms and destroyed homes in several towns across central Iowa.

At least one person was killed in the storm, two others were
hospitalized, and a gas leak forced authorities to evacuate part of
Stratford, a town of about 746 residents 50 miles northwest of Des
Moines.

"Half the town's gone," said Bob Smith, who has lived in
Stratford for 12 years. He said he ran from his camper as the
tornado touched down.

Search teams later found the body of another Stratford resident,
Lucille Runyan, 82. Her daughter-in-law said Runyan's son had been
with the team that discovered her. Another woman was pulled alive
from the rubble, searcher Scott Bergman said. Authorities said at
least two dozen homes in the town were destroyed.

In Woodward, 30 miles to the south, 20 to 40 homes were severely
damaged, Dallas County Sheriff Brian Gilbert said. He said
emergency crews had searched house-to-house and hadn't found any
victims by evening.

"The big problem right now is power lines are down and gas
lines are ruptured," Gilbert said. "We are encouraging people to
stay out of the area."

National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Cogil said it
appeared that at least three tornadoes touched down Saturday
afternoon.

Tornadoes are rare this late in the year. There have been 23
November tornadoes in Iowa since 1950, all but six of them recorded
in the years 1975 and 1988, according to Weather Service records.
Last weekend, however, another tornado ripped through western
Kentucky and Southwest Indiana, killing 22 people.