Sunday night the most powerful tornado (EF5) to hit Iowa in 32 years obliterated half of Parkersburg, Iowa. The tornado picked up headstones at a cemetery and carried them 1/2 mile, took houses off their foundation and ripped tile and carpeting from floors. In a stroke of good fortune, the town installed a tornado warning siren in the section of town that was destroyed just 10 days before the storm hit, no doubt sparing many lives.
The devastation was total. 200-300 homes, the high school and many businesses were swept away. Parkersburg is a couple of counties north of us, we escaped with only a window blown out in the chicken coop.
When we heard about the storm in Parkersburg, our thoughts went to our good neighbors, who have lots of family in Parkersburg. We tried calling them Sunday night and again Monday to find out how their families were doing. Later on the news, we saw that one of their family members was listed as a fatality. She died in the basement of their home, in the arms of her husband, who is in University Hospitals in Iowa City with a broken neck and other injuries. He has trauma-induced amnesia and can’t remember the tornado. Another brother and many nieces, aunts, and in-laws lost their homes as well. I can’t imagine the grief of simultaneously dealing with planning a funeral, caring for loved ones in the hospital, and arranging for salvage and clean-up of you belongings, all without any familiar surroundings. This Memorial Day is especially poignant for the residents of Parkersburg and their families. Keep them in your thoughts.