City: Priority one is to clear streets of debris for emergency responders

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Residents impacted by Thursday’s EF-3 tornado and volunteers have worked side-by-side to clean up debris in areas primarily north of Boone Street. Pictured is a woman preparing to dump yard waste into a large pile of tree branches and more on a boulevard in the 800 block of West State Street Sunday.

Nearly 72-hours after the devastating tornado touched down, Marshalltown city crews were still working at a feverish pace Sunday to clear streets in a multi-mile area north of Boone Street, identified by Marshalltown police as most severely impacted.

It includes significant portions of east and west State Street, Main Street, much of Summit Street, and many more.

Expect their work to continue until Marshalltown Public Works Director Justin Nickel is satisfied.

“Priority one is to clear the streets of debris for emergency responders,” he said Sunday. On the back burner will be crews turning their attention to the mammoth piles of tree limbs, sections of whole trees and other debris piled on city-owned boulevards.

Nickel said it had not been determined yet if garbage haulers would be allowed to service route beginning today.

While Nickel and team are making progress, many streets are still clogged with traffic, as city crews, Alliant Energy trucks and staff, Red Cross, Salvation Army, an army of tree servicers, roofing contractors, the curious and more vie for space.

Nickel’s comments were echoed by City Administrator Jessica Kiner.

“We are still very much in a recovery phase,” she said. “First priority is to open up city streets … that all streets are free and clear of debris. We are working to restore our transportation system as quickly as possible. It is ongoing, and I have no idea how long that is going to take.”

Kinser said it is not yet clear when limited or regular bus service will begin.

“Until further notice, bus service is being assessed, and we will let the public know as soon as possible,” she said.

Kinser said she and others have been impressed with the dedication of city employees across the board.

“They are making things happen, they are putting in the time necessary,” she said. “Due to the monumental task ahead of us, we have hired contractors to assist us. We quickly realized we can not do this alone, and we have help now to make that happen.”

Kinser said City Hall and the Veterans Memorial Coliseum will be closed until further notice, as both suffered significant damage.

“The VMC was the most heavily damage of all city buildings,” Kinser said.

Much of State Street and Center Street will be closed until we make more progress on debris removal, building assessments and more. We do not want people coming downtown.”

Kinser said the city council will meet 5:30 p.m. at the Marshalltown Public Library’s conference room and work from an abbreviated agenda.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com