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Alpha Chi Omega Moving Forward Following Storm

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IOWA CITY - Severe weather changed life as they knew it for many University of Iowa students. In April, a tornado tore through Iowa City and ripped apart the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house. The storm took the east wall. No one was hurt, even though many women were inside the building at the time. They spent the summer finding a new place to live. The sorority actually moved twice before classes started this past Monday.

It has been an emotional roller coaster for many members. The Alpha Chi Omega sorority had lived in the same house for nearly 100 years. So it is not just students who will miss it, but today's members do have to find a way to move forward.

Taylor Vanhooreweghe can smile now. Her sorority has a home for the next couple of years, but it is hard to imagine less than six months ago her sorority sisters stood in front of the old house, crying. April's tornado destroyed the Alpha Chi Omega house. Four months and two moves later, the sorority is in an old frat house. Vanhooreweghe said, "We're definitely out of our element."

Out of her element and still riding a self-described emotional roller coaster, Vanhooreweghe is trying to move forward with a new semester. But it is not easy to shut out the memories. Vanhooreweghe said, "I myself was in pure shock. I remember not saying much."

The bad news is the old house will have to come down bringing with it more than 90 years of history. The good news is the sorority will overcome the storm. Vanhooreweghe said, "It was a very bad thing that happened but in the same sense we're stronger for it."

Stronger and moving forward. They found the old Phi Delta Theta house available. House supervisor Marsha Grady said, "So when we looked at this house that was it's biggest appeal that a) it had enough room for all the girls, 49 this fall."

And the sisters are already planning to move back to the scene of the storm. The sorority voted on an architectural firm to design a new house. The plan is to tear down the old house in early September. They hope to move into the new building on the same lot in time for the fall of 2008.

Email Steve Nicoles at

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