Several buildings and an historic courthouse were damaged in the main business district of Marshalltown.
"A line of supercells along a cold front pushed eastward through central Iowa producing several tornadoes, including the potentially strong tornado that hit portions of Bondurant and Pella", said weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Belles.
The City of Marshalltown has declared a state of emergency and said a curfew will go into effect at 9 p.m. Thursday.
The storm knocked out power and telephone service at city hall, officials said. Smith said his house and neighborhood were not damaged, but much of downtown and surrounding homes have been.
One tornado slammed into an agricultural machinery plant in Iowa as some people were working, injuring at least seven people.
The company, which manufactures industrial and agricultural equipment, had major damage, said Vermeer CEO Jason Andringa.
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Gov. Kim Reynolds told WHO-TV in Des Moines that two of Vermeer's buildings in Pella were demolished in the storm.
Lt. Shane Cox with the Pella Police Dpartment says there were a number in the town that were sent to the hospital. "It's just an absolute mess". "If anything, we were expecting we could get some large hail, if strong storms developed". The storm carried east of Des Moines past Altoona, Prairie City and Colfax. Seven people were sent to the hospital with minor injuries and have all since checked out of the hospital.
All were released after being treated at Pella Regional Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman told the AP.
One of the factory's several manufacturing buildings sustained extensive damage with metal strewn across the parking lot and across the street into a cornfield.
The city had activated its tornado siren and most staff were in underground shelters when the storm hit, but huge sheets of metal were left scattered through a auto park, ripping a hole in the side of a building, overturning cars and piling them onto others.
Authorities are asking people to stay away as emergency personnel assess the damage, tend to the injured, and respond to calls for help.