Marshalltown’s largest employers hit hard by tornado

T-R PHOTO By EMILY BLOBAUM A rail car weighing over 60,000 pounds was overturned in tornado that hit the JBS meat packing plant in Marshalltown on July 19.

The tornado, which devastated hundreds of homes and Main Street businesses, also destructed some of Marshalltown’s largest employers.


The meatpacking plant JBS, Marshalltown’s largest employer, was hit hard and closed on Friday.

Winds tore out insulation and panels on the east and west sides of the distribution center, making it temporarily unusable.

“While the damage was significant, we can recover from it,” General Manager Todd Carl said. “We have 20 contractors on site who are helping us with the recovery.

The static freezer, which holds 24-million pounds of pork was also exposed to the elements.

“We will probably lose all of this product, “ he said. “Winds that damaged the static freezer also flipped over several of our trailers as well as two 180,000-pound railcars.”

JBS was closed Friday with expectations of opening early next week. Consequently, 2,300 employees are impacted.

Carl, a Marshalltown native, said the tornado had a northwest to southeast path, which did minimal damage to other parts of the plant.

But while most of the workforce will have several days off, Carl said about 100 employees were busy picking up debris just outside the security fence.

“Once they are done, we will have them help our neighbors,” he said.


Lennox International is another major employer and east-side business which experienced significant damage from Thursday’s tornado.

Closed Friday, it was unclear as of press time when it will re-open and what the extent of damage is.

Senior Human Resources Director Dana Rasmussen of Marshalltown said local officials were grateful no Lennox employee was injured, and referred other question to corporate public relations.

Bill Gee of Lennox corporate said the company did not have any more to add to a press release issued earlier Friday.

“After employees, customers are our second priority,” Lennox Chairman and COO Todd Bluedorn said in a company-issued press release. “An advantage of owning our own distribution company is we have more than a 40-day supply of equipment in more than 255 distribution centers to meet our customer’s needs. Additionally, 75 percent of our North American residential heating and air-conditioning equipment is made in Mexico and South Carolina. Teams in those locations are at the ready to support the Marshalltown recovery. Since the company’s founding in Marshalltown 123 years ago, the Lennox team has worked together and support each other.”

Iowa Veterans Home

While other local business icons and major employers were hard-hit by the tornado, the Iowa Veterans Home experienced only minor damage.

“Approximately 30 trees were knocked over, and there was some minor roof damage to some our buildings, but nothing as extreme as what hit some residential properties near IVH,” Commandant Timon Oujiri told First District Congressman Rod Blum and staff. “Staff have been up on the roofs today … I think the tornado jumped over IVH.”

Blum was in Marshalltown to see first-hand the extent of damage caused.

“I am pleased to see IVH escaped the major brunt of the tornado,” Blum said after the nearly 40-minute tour, which also included IVH’s brand-new laundry facilities. “But the real story here is the seven local residents who were housed over-night by IVH because they needed to be in a secure facility with electricity.”

Thursday evening, representatives from a social service agency asked IVH to house the Marshalltown residents because their housing had been damaged and were without electricity needed to run medical equipment among other factors.

A temporary care area was set up in the Malloy Leisure Resource Center complete with a television and snacks.

Nursing and other staff remained with the locals overnight.

“Because of their housing situation, we fast-tracked their applications and I am pleased to say they are now IVH residents,” Oujiri said after the tour. “They live now in our couples residence area.”