Agencies Unite to Aid Tornado Victims

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Eldon Myers carries a plate of donated food as others wait in line behind him at the Veterans Memorial Building in Parkersburg on Wednesday, May 28, 2008. Myers' house wasn't damaged in Sunday's tornado but he helped his family and friends clean up debris from their destroyed homes. (Photo by Courtney Sargent/The Gazette)

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By Becky Ogann

PARKERSBURG - On Sunday, an EF-5 tornado with winds of 205 miles per hour devastated the town of Parkersburg. The tornado killed five people in Parkersburg and two others in nearby New Hartford, making it the deadliest tornado in Iowa in 40 years.

Reaction to the storm has been swift as several agencies help with the long process of putting so many lives back together.

The average person would probably have no idea how to begin cleaning up this type of a mess. There are so many jobs that need to be done, but first responders have a game plan.

The tornado tore apart the town of Parkersburg but it also united emergency responders from all over the state.

"Everybody has a different background, different experience. Trying to get everybody working off the same sheet of music is what we've been here trying to do for the last couple days," Greg Jones, an aid coordinator, said.

All of these crews have prepared for a worst-case scenario. Few have ever had to actually put their training into use during this kind of a situation.

"It's comforting to know that the different agencies can integrate and solve an issue or an event like this," Greg Chia, an aid coordinator, said.

Every responder gets a list of duties at the beginning of the day. Most are working overtime to help all the victims stay safe, clean-up and move on.

"Nobody's complaining about what happened. Nobody's screaming for help necessarily. It's just getting done," said Jones.

On a typical day all of these agencies would operate independently for the most part. For the next few weeks and months, they'll all work together as a team. Without this type of cooperation, it would be nearly impossible to put Parkersburg back together.

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