Recovery Continues on Fourth Anniversary of Tornado | News, Sports, Jobs


TR PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY A cleanup crew works to clear debris on the property at the southwest corner of the intersection of First and Central Street on July 14. It’s one of the essential properties to be razed in the past year and is part of a larger effort to revitalize downtown after the 2018 tornado and 2020 derecho.

Four years ago today, an EF-3 tornado ripped through Marshalltown, leaving havoc in its wake. Over time, however, the community continues to move closer to recovery and revitalization, and local leaders are pleased with the progress.

The road to recovery has been rocky since the tornado was associated with the 2020 derecho and the COVID-19 pandemic, but Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer said Marshalltown has still come a long way. path.

“After the tornado, we were told to wait about five years before we could start to feel like things had returned to some normalcy, and so we’re not quite at that level, but we’re definitely doing progress,” Spohnheimer said. “It’s exciting now to see things going down that were meant to go down for a while and to think about the future of what’s going to come back up.”

The city is in the process of demolishing a tornado-damaged building located at the corner of South Center Street and West Main Street, and just a few months ago they completed the demolition of 102 W. Main St. Spohnheimer believes these changes are a significant step forward. points because they are a visible sign for the community that the situation is improving.

“People were constantly reminded. You know, seeing a building that was in distress from the disaster is difficult. I know it’s hard for me, I think it was hard for a lot of people in our community, and so seeing these things happen, for me, was a point of renewal,” she said.

The city is currently gathering ideas to redevelop the newly refreshed properties by surveying the community to see what they want to have on Main Street and Spohnheimer hopes that by next year new projects will be underway. .

Police Chief Mike Tupper is also excited to see the new changes in Marshalltown as normalcy slowly returns, and he praised the hardworking members of the community who have made this progress possible.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been four years in many ways. In some ways, it feels like it’s been longer than that too, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress as a community, and it’s exciting to see some of the changes starting to take shape. I know there’s still a lot of work to do, but the community is working hard every day to push our city in a positive direction,” Tupper said.

Tupper referenced the courthouse project and said he looks forward to the project being completed later this year because the structure is such an important part of the Marshalltown community.

Looking back on the day the tornado hit, Tupper said the community’s collaboration and response will always touch him, and he’s sure Marshalltown will continue to recover at a steady pace.

“Our community always seems to adapt and overcome, and I’m confident our future is bright thanks to the people who live here. They will make sure our community does what it takes to recover,” Tupper said. “I am an impatient person. Patience is not a virtue for me, and I think a lot of people struggle with patience and we all want things fixed and we want to be fully recovered now. But it takes time, and I think we are on schedule.

Aaron Buzbee, who along with his wife Michele owns Zeno’s Pizza, the Fiddle and Whistle and Wayward Social, also reflected on the tornado and the effects it had on his businesses and the changes in the community since then. . He felt the recovery was just beginning for Marshalltown.

“We are seeing a lot of progress. Everything that’s happening downtown, you know, where we’ve had this turbulent time, results in a lot of opportunities, and I think we have the right leaders in place who can lead us into this next chapter in Marshalltown,” Buzbee said. “I think we still have a long way to go.”

Buzbee’s two main street businesses, Zeno’s and the Fiddle and Whistle, suffered extensive damage during the tornado and although Buzbee said they were still feeling those effects to some degree, he felt that some of the Progress made downtown is a direct result of the tornado. .

Zeno’s, for example, had its infrastructure upgraded, and the Buzbees had the kitchen remodeled to be more efficient since it was closed for a while. Buzbee said it would have been more convenient if these upgrades had been “done on their terms,” ​​but the result ended up being the same.

“We tried to make lemonade from lemons as best we could,” Buzbee said. “We’re coming out of this, and our downtown, we’re still going through some tough times, and it’s not as great as it used to be, but if you fast forward three to five years, we’re going to have an incredible downtown that probably wouldn’t have happened without this tragedy.”

Marshalltown still has a long way to go before it can be considered fully recovered, but the resounding message throughout the community is one of hope and progress. The historic fifth anniversary is fast approaching, and community leaders are eagerly awaiting what next year has in store for them.


Contact Susanna Meyer

at 641-753-6611 or

[email protected]

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