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Tornado Recovery Heightens Town's Spirit

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PARKERSBURG, Iowa Faith and small-town bonds widely reputed to live only in faulty memories helped the Butler County town of Parkersburg become a model for disaster recovery, community leaders say.

Those same values, widely publicized in the weeks after an EF5 tornado blew up the southern third of the town five years ago today, continue to attract young families to Parkersburg, Mayor Perry Bernard said.

"Small-town America still exists. People are moving here because they want to raise their kids in a place like Parkersburg. Houses don't stay on the market very long," said Bernard, whose house was one of nearly 300 destroyed when the mile-wide tornado struck Parkersburg in the middle of a Memorial Day weekend.

The tornado, which continued along a 43-mile course through New Hartford, Dunkerton, Hazleton and Lamont, "has brought everyone in Parkersburg to an even higher level of friendship and support. It taught us all to value our friends and neighbors," Bernard said.

Rep. Bruce Braley, in town Friday to highlight the community's recovery, recently inserted a statement into the Congressional Record, citing Parkersburg as "a model for recovery after a natural disaster."

Braley, a Democrat representing Iowa's 1st District, in town five years earlier to help with the cleanup, recalled sorting through the debris in an elderly couple's home, asking if they wanted to save certain items.
"None of the stuff was theirs. Their stuff was all somewhere else, probably miles away," he said.

Parkersburg's rebuilding effort is a "reflection of the community's commitment to come back stronger and better," Braley said.

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