Oelwein, IA F5 Tornado – May 15, 1968

SPC Stats:

Path length: 13.1 miles

Width:  500 yards

Fatalities:  5

Injuries:  156

Rating:  F5

A second F5 tornado in the state of Iowa developed at approximately the same time as one further northwest was rolling through Charles City on May 15, 1968.   

This tornado tracked through parts of Fayette County.  The greatest destruction was in the towns of Oelwein and Maynard.  Nearly 1,000 homes were damaged, some were swept off their foundation.  5 people were killed and over 150 injured.

This tornado was a part of a larger outbreak and as I mentioned was the 2nd of 2 F5s this day.  Here is the summary on the first that barreled through Charles City, IA.  

Storm Data Entry

The tornado passed through downtown Oelwein and moved north-northeast to Maynard moving through the town in a northward direction.  It ended about 5 miles north-northeast of Maynard.  Of the 156 injuries, 34 were hospitalized.  965 families were affected by the tornado.  Loss estimates ranged upward to 21 million dollars.  Most of which occurred in Oelwein.

Additional information from Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes

  • Moved NNE from SW of Oelwein to Maynard and E of Randalia.
  • Homes were leveled and swept away in both Oelwein and Maynard.
  • the warning sirens sound for only 15 seconds before a power failure in Oelwein.
  • Approximately 1000 homes damaged/destroeyd along the path.

Tornado Path


We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the Ma 1968 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 13.1 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and Storm Data have a 15 mile path length.


The Storm Prediction Center

NCDC Storm Events Database

May 1968 Storm Data Publication


Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1098.