DES MOINES, Iowa (CBS NEWS) – A whirlwind of tornadoes swept through central Iowa, injuring at least 17 people Thursday, plundering buildings in three cities and forcing the evacuation of a hospital. The tornadoes formed unexpectedly and hit the cities of Marshalltown, Pella, and Bondurant when surprised residents took cover.
The worst hit was Marshalltown, a city of 27,000 people about 50 miles northeast of Des Moines, where brick walls collapsed, roofs were blown off buildings, and the dome of the historic courthouse plunged 175 feet to the ground.
A tornado crashed into an Iowa agricultural plant when some people worked and injured at least seven people. This tornado hit town in Pella, about 40 miles southeast of Des Moines.
Pella Police Lt. Shane Cox told CBS affiliate KCCI-TV the injured were taken to a hospital. Spokeswoman for the Pella Regional Health Center, Billie Rhamy, confirmed on Thursday night that seven people in the factory were treated for minor injuries and released. The factory, which employs around 2,800 people and produces industrial and agricultural equipment, was hit by a tornado around 4:00 pm. Local time.
One of the factory's many factory buildings suffered extensive damage, metal was scattered in the parking lot and across the road into a cornfield. Vehicles were overturned and stacked on others.
Vermeer spokeswoman Liz Sporrer said on Thursday via e-mail that company representatives assess the damage. The company's vice president of operations says the factory has activated its storm warning system and workers were in shelters.
UnityPoint Health Hospital in Marshalltown has been damaged, spokeswoman Amy Varcoe said.
Varcoe said all 40 of its patients were transferred to the hospitals of the health system in Waterloo and Grundy Center.
The Marshalltown Hospital emergency room remained open to treat patients who were injured in the storm, Varcoe said. Ten people injured in the storm were treated at 7 pm. Thursday, she said. She did not know how serious the injuries of these patients were.
The tornado arrived when clothing retailer Stephanie Moz, her husband and two-month-old baby, had lunch at Marshalltown.
Moz says the storm He broke the shop windows, ruining the clothes and hats they had and destroying their husband's vehicle, but she was relieved. "We went through a tornado and survived, I'm happy."
She was a storm siren and her mother told her she should seek shelter, so she and her son, Fredy Jr., hurried to the cellar. Moz's husband looked outside and then ran back and shouted, "Go down to the basement, it's right above us." They could hear jibs and crash, and a gust of wind blew through the basement, but they came out safely. We are okay. Not a scratch.
A woman who worked at Hammer Medical Supply in the downtown area said her building had been damaged, as well as nearby buildings like The Orpheum, a theater built in 1
Mark Smith, Iowa State Rep lives in Marshalltown, KCCI-TV said the area is likely to be declared a disaster area and Smith said his house and neighborhood had not been damaged, but many of the downtown and surrounding homes were
"There are houses Windows, houses without roofs, "he said." It's just an absolute mess. "
Additional funnels were reported as the storm moved east of Des Moines past Altoona, Prairie City, and Colfax.
The station reported that the roof of a house was completely demolished, while some other roof areas are missing.  A motorhome also tipped against another house and ve caused damage.
Video footage and images posted online apparently show the tornado breaking through Bondurant's buildings.
Alex Krull, a meteorologist at the National Meteorological Service in Des Moines, said the predictive models produced Thursday morning later showed little chance of strong thunderstorms.
"This morning it did not look as if Tornadic supercells were possible," Krull said. "If anything, we expected that we could get a big hail if there were strong storms."
Krull said the weather service had expected that a serious weather threat would remain in effect until 7pm. until 8 pm as the storms moved east and north.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)