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Garwin community pulls together

'It makes you proud to live in this town'

July 13, 2011
By ABIGAIL PELZER - Managing Editor ( , Times-Republican

GARWIN - On Tuesday night, some Garwin residents turned their lights on.

Facing what Alliant Energy officials call a major rebuilding project, the small Tama County community was able to get some power to a portion of the southside of Garwin with a generator that they hope will soon power the rest of the town.

"In Garwin and Clutier and that area, there are major problems still there and we are basically in the process of rebuilding lines," Alliant Energy Spokesperson Scott Drzycimski said. "This is a rebuild project we would normally plan a year in advance for. It's a major process underway."

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He said Garwin residents will have to rely on the generator for a source of power for the near future.

Garwin Fire Chief Tim Laffoon said crews were out Tuesday with hopes of restoring gas service, but several tests were being administered in the community that was briefly evacuated following a series of gas leaks Monday morning.

Various equipment is coming in from the state, Laffoon said, helping the residents with downed trees, brush and debris.

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The community of Garwin gathered Monday evening for an emergency town meeting outside of St. Boniface Catholic Church. The town is facing a lengthy recovery following the storm that wiped out power lines and left the small town devastated.

The community was busy Tuesday with help from various different church groups that are aiding in the clean-up effort.

Laffoon said residents have a general understanding of the obstacles they face in recovering from the disaster. While camaraderie has helped keep spirits high, the clean-up effort have exhausted the townspeople, he said.

On Monday evening the community of Garwin joined inside the social center of the St. Boniface Catholic Church, a community space still lacking air conditioning and lighting.

Over a meal of burgers, beans, potato chips and water provided by the Red Cross, they examined what had happened that morning.

Eventually spilling out into the yard of the church and into Fourth Street where an emergency town meeting was held, they were told of straight line winds exceeding 100 mph that had moved through Tama County.

"The challenge is that the damaged area is so extensive that repairs may take five days," said Kip Ladage, Bremer County Emergency Management, who is heading up efforts of mutual aid for Tama County.

Ladage later said work to restore electricity and gas may occur sooner, roughly three days, because of utility assistance coming from around the Midwest.

Gov. Terry Branstad authorized a state disaster proclamation for Tama County Monday afternoon, which means state-owned generators and Iowa Department of Transportation trucks, among other resources are available to the town on roughly 560 people.

Garwin Mayor Greg Oaks said they had already come a long way.

"We've made a big effort ," he said. "We've started on a big process and as we get some regulations in place for clean up we hope to be in a be looking better in a couple of days."

Kim Laffoon said the community was joining together in the effort.

"It's great to be in a little town that bands together," she said. "Everyone is checking on everyone and helping out - it makes you proud to live in this town."

Josh and Kim Meyer sat in folding chairs outside St. Boniface while their 2-year-old son, Jonah, played nearby.

"There's has been a lot of neighbors helping neighbors," Kim Meyer said. "It's a community effort for sure."

The Meyer's home had exterior damage to the roof and patio as well as downed trees.

The severe storm mangled grain bins, ripped the roof off of the post office and caused damage to most all of the homes in the town.

Garwin resident Tom Waite said the clean-up effort was encouraging.

"We shall survive," he said.



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