WOODWARD, Iowa — Tornadoes swept across central Iowa on Saturday, ripping up farms, destroying homes in several towns and sending college football fans running from a stadium for shelter.

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.

In Ames, football fans gathering for the Iowa State-Colorado game were cleared from the stands and told to take shelter in the nearby basketball arena as the tornado sirens sounded. The storm hit on the edge of the city, where city spokeswoman Susan Gwiasda said the damage was mostly broken windows and downed power lines.

"We dodged a bullet with the track of that storm," Iowa State University spokesman John McCarroll said. He said officials had prepared for the chance of dangerous weather during the game.

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.

On Saturday, at least two tornadoes hit in Boone County, with major damage in the Boxholm and Pilot Mound areas, a few miles south of Stratford, a dispatcher said. A convenience store in Woodward was also damaged.

Richard Albracht, 59, had headed for his basement in Woodward when he saw shingles start to fly and heard the sirens.

He said he went outside after the storm passed and found several homes damaged and an empty restaurant with only one wall left standing.

"It's pretty bad. There's houses destroyed and roofs off of houses," he said.

John Kiley and his wife were watching television at their home in rural Woodward when they heard the warning.

"I saw it two, three minutes before it hit," Kiley said. "My wife said go to the basement. I said no. We got in the car and went down the road. I looked out, it hit our house."

His house, barn, garage and another building were severely damaged, and many of his sheep were injured, neighbor Doug Jimeson said.

"There were sheep everywhere," Jimeson said.


Contributing: Chuck Schoffner