Tornado that hit Parkersburg, Iowa destroyed all city hall records

It’s been a tough few weeks in the Midwest of the U.S., and some might say a year if you consider the tornado that nearly wiped Greensburg, Kansas[wiki] off the face of the earth almost a year ago.

Over the past weekend, storms have been hitting close to home back in Iowa, and the reports keep painting the picture clearer as to what happened in the small town of Parkersburg, Iowa. Growing up, you know about these things and understand what they are capable of. This is a bit different.

Rescuers continued picking through the wreckage in search of possible victims, but officials said they were hopeful no one else would be found. In addition to those killed, about 70 people were injured, including two in critical condition.

The damage in this town of about 1,000 was staggering: 222 homes destroyed, 21 businesses destroyed and more than 400 homes damaged. Among the buildings destroyed were the city hall, the high school and the town’s sole grocery store and gas station.

“There’s so much hurt here, I don’t know where to start,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who owns a farm near New Hartford. [myway]

What is even more astounding is that not only was the city hall destroyed, but so was all the data records.

All records stored at Parkersburg’s City Hall were lost in Sunday’s tornado, officials confirmed this morning.

Backup computer information might be available, they said, but the first order of business will be the massive cleanup effort that awaits.

At a community meeting this morning, officials announced that a system has been established to let property owners inform crews when they have finished trying to salvage belongings. Resident were instructed to register at the Veterans Building community center for special green and tan lawn stakes that signify when property is ready for demolition. [desmoinesregister]

I’ve been through my share of storms and seen the damage these things can do, but I cannot fathom what it would take to have damage on this wide of a scale. Houses and barns are what you expect, and it never feels typical when it happens. No matter how small the town is, it’s still a town, and it’s hardly a town now.

If you would like to help out with the cause, please consider pledging to the Red Cross who is helping out with the disaster recovery.

A tornado nearly two miles wide

The other day, Rebecca and I were on the topic of the recent tornado that swept through Greensburg, Kansas. She said something to the effect that she heard that it was two miles wide. I could not believe that and was assured that she had her facts a little misconstrued, if not a little off. Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve been through my share of scares and seen a few funnel clouds. Haven’t seen, first hand, a lot of tornadoes on the ground, but it’s one of those things that everyone just knows about.

Shockingly, I was wrong, and she was right.

Since the tornado flattened Greensburg on Friday night, emergency responders have struggled to find out how many of its 1,600 residents may be safely staying with friends or relatives, rather than in shelters.

The massive tornado, an enhanced F-5 with wind estimated at 205 mph, was part of a weekend of violent storms that tore across the Plains and were also blamed for two other deaths in Kansas.

The death toll could have been much worse, but for a 20-minute warning – a rarely issued “tornado emergency” alert – that gave people time to take shelter in basements and storm cellars. [myway]

Greensboro, KansasLook at this photo, too. When I heard the initial reports that the city was basically wiped off the face of the earth, you think that it’s just journalistic sensationalism. After reading that, I think about what it was like to go through the handful of close calls in my lifetime and how intense a storm like that could be. In fact, I couldn’t imagine.

Growing up, there was the small town Worthington, smaller than the small town I grew up in, that was hit straight on by a tornado. The trail of debris and destruction was, as I recall, was a few hundred feet wide. Basically, you could follow the exact path, and it was one of those typical scenes. What was tore to shreds in one place, the object next to it was pristine and not damaged at all. Even though we were total gawkers, checking out the destruction in our car and getting on the nerves of the National Guard who were there to clean things up, I learned exactly why you need to take tornadoes seriously.

Ever been huddled under a blanket in the corner of the basement while waves of rain, wind, and chunks of trees slam into the house above you? It was enough to have my mother start saying her last goodbyes, and I was right there with her. That wasn’t even a tornado. Microbursts[wiki] are just as hair raising, as I discovered on that one summer afternoon. Our house was spared, but within five minutes, we lost a lot of trees in our neighborhood. I did end up getting cut on my arm while helping with the cleanup, and there was no power until the next day.

It’s unbelievable to think that a tornado struck a town straight on at a width of nearly two miles wide. That is a vision of a nightmare, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this fact. Envisioning it is scary enough. I feel for those who were affected. Even though I’ve kinda been there, what happened in Greensburg is a hundred times worse. Can only hope that they have the strength to rebuild. Rebuild an entire town, that is.