IOWA Residents pick through rubble after tornadoes


Associated Press

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa

With the scope of the devastation still sinking in, business owners and residents of the central Iowa city of Marshalltown on Friday began picking up bricks from collapsed buildings, dragging away downed trees and trying to return to the lives they knew before a powerful tornado roared through their community.

Structures throughout Marshalltown were hit by the Thursday afternoon tornado, but some of the worst damage was to the historic courthouse and brick buildings that line the city’s quaint town square. For years, officials and property owners have slowly worked to spruce up the buildings, only to see them devastated in minutes.

“Since 2002 we’ve spent $50 million in building renovations and now to see these, I’m just sick,” said Jenny Etter, executive director of the Marshalltown Central Business District, a nonprofit group. “We were making giant strides in restoring the downtown so this is really devastating to us because we were on a roll. These buildings were beautiful.”

At the 132-year-old courthouse, a blue tarp flapped over a gaping hole atop the clock tower after the cupola tumbled to the ground.

Officials promised to rebuild, but some residents were too shocked to make plans.

The tornado that hit Marshalltown was among a flurry of unexpected twisters that swept through central Iowa on Thursday, injuring at least 17 people and flattening buildings in three cities.

The National Weather Service said Friday that at least five tornadoes and likely more struck. Meteorologist Jeff Johnson said it will take days to determine their strength and total number.

Marshalltown, a city of 27,000, was hit hardest. Officials said 10 people were injured and at least 28 people were relocated to an emergency shelter.

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