Greenfield tornado: How to volunteer, donate, help with recovery

Three images arranged with one on top and two side-by-side on the bottom from the volunteer check-in spot for Greenfield tornado recovery. Top image shows a red trailer that says "disaster relief command center" with a line of people stretched out in front of it. The bottom left picture shows a fair food truck and a mini donut food truck in the line to go into Greenfield. Bottom right picture shows four young women sitting in a truck and posing for the camera while they wait to leave

Photos by Avery Staker Top: Volunteer check in Bottom left: two food trucks. Bottom right: volunteers posing

By Nikoel Hytrek

May 23, 2024

Officials are still limiting who can go into town, but there are still ways you can help with Greenfield tornado recovery.

Donations, volunteer efforts, and offers to help in any way possible have swamped the southwest Iowa town of Greenfield in Adair County since it took a hit from a tornado on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, which has so far led to five deaths and 35 people injured.

But officials have locked the town down since then, saying the reason is to keep traffic light and to limit the number of outsiders in the town while recovery and clean-up continues. Curfews have also been in place in town from 10 p.m.-7 a.m. each night.

“Only volunteers connected to residents within the City of Greenfield or authorized contractors will be permitted entry,” said Adair & Guthrie County EMA in a Facebook update. (Their Facebook page and the page for the Adair County Sheriff’s Office have the latest information about volunteers and donations.)

5 dead, 35 injured in EF-4 tornado

The National Weather Service Des Moines office has rated the Greenfield tornado, which cut through the southwest edge of town, an EF-4. That could change again as they continue surveying damage.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety confirmed Thursday that five people died and at least 35 people were injured by the Greenfield tornado.

“It should be noted that it is believed that the number of those injured is likely higher, but these numbers reflect only those patients treated for their injuries at designated alternate care sites,” said Sgt. Alex Dinkla, public information officer for the Iowa State Patrol, in a press release on Wednesday.

Some people, he added, were transported to out-of-county facilities.

How to volunteer, donate to Greenfield tornado recovery

Officials say they wanted to shut down Greenfield because of prior experiences from April in Minden, where an EF-3 tornado damaged approximately 40% of homes in the small town.

“In speaking with those who responded to the tornado-struck towns in western Iowa earlier this spring, these steps are needed to prevent a tremendous amount of nonessential people from slowing down the progress of those who are essential to the clean-up—especially utility crews trying to restore power to the city,” Adair County Sheriff Jeff Vandewater posted on Facebook.

Officials are approving volunteers at the Iowa DOT building on the eastern outskirts of the town on Highway 92. Physical donations and volunteers have also been limited for easier management.

St. John’s Catholic Church has been the destination for physical donations. The church announced Wednesday on Facebook they were limiting the hours people could donate on Thursday from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. Donations of some items—like clothing, hygiene products and nonperishable items—are being limited as well.

“We have run out of space. We will wait for demand to catch up,” the church posted Thursday morning on Facebook.

Those who need the donated items, meanwhile, are welcome to come any time it’s convenient for them.

Money can be donated through the Greater Greenfield Community Foundation’s website.

On Wednesday afternoon into the evening, waves of volunteers reported to the DOT site and waited to get checked in and waved through by state troopers.

Among the line of vehicles were food trucks—pizza, fair food and mini donuts—as well as Hy-Vee delivery, and people hauling equipment like four-wheelers.

How to get state, federal help for Greenfield tornado, other storm damage

Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued state disaster proclamations for Adair County and 31 other counties impacted by the severe weather Tuesday.

That declaration means state resources can be used to assist in recovery efforts. It also launches the Individual Assistance Grant Program and the Disaster Case Advocacy Program for the affected counties.

The Individual Assistance program offers grants up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and applications are open for 45 days. You can find specific numbers here.

The grants can be used for home or car repairs, clothing or food replacements, and temporary housing. You can find more information and apply here.

The Disaster Case Advocacy Program, by contrast, has no income eligibility, and applications are open for 180 days. This program helps people figure out what their recovery plan is, and provides advice and referrals for resources people need to recover from disasters. More information can be found here.

On Thursday, Reynolds and Deanne Criswell, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, met in Greenfield to survey damage and talk to local officials about their needs.

Reynolds on Thursday also requested a sped-up Presidential Disaster Declaration for Adair, Polk, Story, and Montgomery counties. This would open up FEMA’s program of services for people who have been impacted by disasters. It also provides funds for infrastructure and building repairs, or to cover emergency work.


*Update at 4:47 p.m. on Thursday: the National Weather Service upgraded the Greenfield tornado to an EF-4.

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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