Message of hope among devastation

TR photo by Emily Barske Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper talks to a utility worker on a ride along with the T-R through the most damaged parts of town on Sunday.

Driving by Marshalltown residents cleaning up debris and storm damage in the north part of town, Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper asked people how they were doing and if they needed anything.

One pair of residents sitting in lawn chairs outside their home that was falling apart laughed and replied “electricity.” Utility crews and emergency responders are working as quickly as they can to get people what they need, but they can only work so fast. Alliant hopes to have full power restored by midweek.

The northeast residential neighborhoods were part of the area hit hardest by the EF-3 tornado that tore through Marshalltown on Thursday afternoon. Devastation seems to be the recurring term used to describe the reality that many are facing.

Tupper wants there to be a message of hope even among all the destruction.

“We can figure this out,” he said. “It’ll just take time.”

He brought the T-R on a ride along Sunday afternoon to tour the areas most impacted by the tornado.

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Tupper said he is very concerned about the residents who were hit hard. He said some of the homes are in such a stare he’s unsure what a homeowner would do to begin repairs. Marshalltown’s skyline and drive through historic Main Street will never be the same, he said.

As he drove by the destruction, he handed out water to some residents, answered questions they had and told them he was thinking of them. And he waved to everyone.

Meanwhile, the police department is facing its own challenges with damage. Its building, for the most part, is functional again. However, many of their squad vehicles were badly damaged by the storm and need repairs.

Tupper was in his personal vehicle when the storm hit. His only form of protection was to get as low as he could and use his arms to cover his head. All of the side windows on his car shattered.

He is grateful nobody died in the storm. He credits the weather alerts for saving lives and said the sirens are really only meant to be a signal for those who are outside.

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Tupper said there is a lot of cleanup left to do, but Marshalltown is a strong community and will pull through.

He wanted to advise people the dumpsters set up downtown should be used by those who don’t have access to a vehicle that can haul debris. He asked that people make sure to put debris into the dumpster when they get it there and not just beside it.

Many people want to help right now, he said but Marshalltown needs people in it for the long haul.

“Those who want to help out should be patient,” he said. “That way you can be sure your money and efforts are going to a worthy cause and the right cause.”

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Contact Emily Barske at 641-753-6611 or ebarske@timesrepublican.com