Our Town McGregor: 2017 Tornado

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MCGREGOR, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- This week KCRG-TV9 is featuring the Mississippi River communities of Marquette, McGregor, and Prairie du Chien together as Our Towns.

Damage from a July 19 tornado in McGregor, Iowa on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Allison Wong/KCRG-TV9)

On July 19, 2017, the unimaginable happened in McGregor. An EF1 tornado moved down Main Street, damaging and destroying several historic downtown buildings. Somehow, no one was hurt.

Despite a year passing, McGregor is still recovering.

Monica Tiffany is hard at work outside the McGregor Mercantile, creating her own chain saw art.

"Last year, I took a beginner class to learn about it; make sure I'm doing everything safely with the chain saws. And it's my new favorite hobby. They've been selling here at the store. It attracts people's attention. And I'm just enjoying it. I'm loving it," Tiffany said.

But a year ago, the tornado that tore through McGregor carved up much of the town's main street buildings, including the one where her husband and she had just opened their business nine months earlier.

"We had pretty significant damage to our roof and windows and everything blown in."

That was bad enough, but up the street the damage was even worse.

A vacant lot has replaced the old Main Street Mall, one of the most picturesque buildings in McGregor.

"It was built in the 1860s, and sometime, I believe in the 1890s, it had a beautiful pressed metal store front put on it. So it was a very beautiful building. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and I think it was one of the most photographed buildings in town," said Duane Boelman, McGregor city manager.

But when the tornado hit last July, in just seconds it was gone.

"The first floor collapsed, and the second floor was pretty much intact when the building came down, but it pretty much collapsed and more or less pan-caked," Boelman said.

The damage from the tornado was a severe shock to this historic river community. But, as so often happens after a disaster, people immediately pitched in to begin the recovery.

"In a way, in a strange sort of way, it helped everybody spiff up the things that they wanted to do that would have taken longer. They would have done it. But now, it got done. So we have a fresh new look for this season," said Kristie Austin, with the Chamber of Commerce.

Today the scars are still there -- buildings still undergoing repairs - facades on some structures that are still missing -- dents that are obvious - but the future looks good.

"We reopened in March, and so we're excited. The town has been bouncing back good, so we're all headed in a good direction. This summer has to be better than last summer," Tiffany said.