Red Cross: ‘It will take a long time to heal’

Mayor gives good news

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Michelle Wilkinson of Marshalltown’s First Presbyterian gestures while asking a question at Thursday night’s Community Meeting at Riverview Park. Looking on are local media and residents.

Marshalltown’s beautiful Riverview Park was the setting for at times sobering, yet also hopeful “community meeting” Thursday night. Nearby, children laughed while blowing bubbles, no doubt oblivious to the pain and misery some residents were suffering but a few blocks south.

The meeting’s mission: Give residents the latest information from city department heads, multiple service providers and others following in the wake of last week’s devastating EF-3 tornado which cut a vicious path of destruction through the heart of the town’s north-side and Central Business District.

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer came with good news.

He said had productive conversations with Gov. Kim Reynolds and federal elected officials earlier in the day in Dubuque. “It was the third time in one week I’ve had conversations with the governor and her staff, and I can tell you they are interested and concerned about Marshalltown,” he said. “Elsewhere, JBS is up to 75 percent production and will soon be at 100 percent.”

JBS – a pork producer – is Marshalltown’s largest employer with 2,300 staff. Many were idled for several days as a result of the tornado’s extensive damage to the facility’s distribution center. The tornado’s force stripped the siding off the east and west walls – exposing tons of pork to the elements. Winds also toppled rail cars – some weighing more than 200,000 pounds.

“I am also extremely proud of our city employees, some of who have been getting only one or two hours of sleep,” said Greer. “My hat is off to them.”

Alliant Energy’s Mike Wagger said the electric and gas utility provider had completed building up its infrastructure -some of which was either obliterated or severely damaged.

“We are concentrating on getting to each and every customer to make sure they have electricity and natural gas,” he said.

On July 20, Alliant crews were faced with 10,000 customers who had lost electricity and gas.

Soon they had reduced it to 4,000, with a pledge of connection all customers getting electricity Wednesday.

Service providers ranging from the American Red Cross to the Salvation Army to Mid-Iowa Community Action, gave messages of hope. They said resources were available from federal and state officials.

However, to access relief a process of completing application forms is necessary. Earlier this week the Marshalltown Area Resource Center at the Marshalltown High School Roundhouse served 616 residents, the ARC’s Holly Baker said.

Mid-Iowa Community Action’s Arlene McAtee said the state disaster relief means she and her staff are prepared to take applications.

“We have served 250 since Tuesday,” she said.

One speaker offered advice.

“If there is one message we want everyone to come away with it is this: ‘Please take care of yourself,” emcee and ARC representative Pete Teahen said. Teahen helped provide relief to Cedar Rapids residents 10 years ago. “While no one was killed in the flood, we had several extremely serious injuries to residents who tried to do too much when they were tired or out of shape in an effort to save money. There were incidents of walls and other debris falling on people who were ill-prepared to take on such demanding physical tasks.”

Teahen also cautioned residents to be prepared for a long healing process.

“It may take as long as seven years,” he said.

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

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