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Iowa City DQ Back From Tornado

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IOWA CITY - The tornado that swept through Iowa City on April 13 damaged about 200 buildings including a well-known ice cream shop.

Generations of families visited the Dairy Queen on Riverside Drive. One family was actually eating ice cream and had to go to the basement when the tornado hit.

The tornado destroyed the business. Debris was everywhere. At the time some people questioned whether the shop could ever rebound. The answer is a resounding yes.

If you visit the Dairy Queen you will notice a few changes. First the parking lot is totally paved. And there are more benches behind the shop where you can eat and look out on the river. But the rest of the business is exactly the same and customers would not have it any other way.

It has been a long time since Tracy McWane has served a customer, but her Dairy Queen business is up and running again. Emphasis on up. Customer JoAnne Kledis said, "I said it was a heartbreaker when it was destroyed. We just, ohhh, it made you sick."

After months of dealing with debris, insurance agents and the city, McWane is back to serving up shakes and blizzards. She said, "I'm gonna make a mess though because this is banana. I'm out of practice."

The DQ just opened and customers are already lining up. Customer Bonnie Jenkins said, "We missed them. Hated to see it happen."

Customer Barbara Croy said, "After it was destroyed it's interesting watching it be rebuilt and it's kind of exciting that they were gonna put it back the way it was before."

This Dairy Queen looks almost exactly like it did for the 45 years before the tornado. McWane said, "We wanted it to be the building people remember their grandparents taking them to. We just wanted to be throwback, new and improved."

McWane is still waiting for the old-time sign that will sit on top of the building. And all the machines had to be replaced, but all anyone cares about now is this Iowa City icon is back in business. As McWane handed one customer an order, the customer said, "We're really glad you're back."

As for the sign, McWane hopes it will be here before the DQ closes for the winter on October 31st. The shop should not have it, but the Iowa City city council made a special exception to zoning laws to let the building look like it did before.

The Johnson County Emergency Management Director Tom Hanson says the rest of Iowa City is recovering well as a whole. But there will be no federal financial aid for businesses or home owners. Governor Tom Vilsack asked the president twice. The president denied each request. Hanson says Iowa City and Johnson County is insured too well. He said, "We are so well insured in Johnson County, Iowa City and surrounding areas and of course the federal government wants to reimburse us for non-insured losses."

The Small Business Administration offered low interest loans, but only about 40 people showed any interest.

Email Steve Nicoles at

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