MARSHALLTOWN — Thousands remain without gas and power as emergency crews work feverishly today in the wake of a tornado that swept across town Thursday afternoon, directly striking downtown and ripping the tops from buildings and leaving behind stacks of rubble.
Remarkably, considering the scope and severity of the damage, there were no fatalities and only minor injuries reported, officials said.
At a news conference Friday morning, Marshalltown Fire Chief Dave Rierson said 14 damage assessment teams began working in the city at 8 a.m.
“Just some drive throughs that I’ve had last night and early this morning, we have suffered some extensive damage,” he said, adding that he hoped the teams would have initial damage assessments by early to midafternoon.
The tornado appeared to strike at the heart of city of about 27,000 people. Roughly six to eight blocks west of its downtown and another 12 blocks to the east suffered “significant damage,” Rierson said.
Officials asked sightseers to stay out of the downtown area while crews assessed damage and people began cleanup.
“Last night was focused on life safety and today it’ll be damage assessment, going out to the businesses and homes and assessing what damage is done,” said Kim Elder, Marshall County emergency management coordinator. “It’s a slow process.”
Among the developments:
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— The storm damaged the county’s 132-year-old brick courthouse and buildings surrounding it, as well as City Hall and the police station.
— The state court administrator will meet with emergency officials this afternoon to determine next steps for restoring court hearings in the county, Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman said. Several county offices in the courthouse were closed as well, he said.
— About 6,600 customers were without power and another 5,000 were without natural gas as of late morning, Alliant Energy reported. Utility spokesman Justin Foss said more than 200 crews are in the town working to repair the damage, which he called a “multiday effort.” Foss said the company received reports of gas leaks Thursday, and crews worked through the night to make the system safe. Still, Alliant is not yet relighting customers.
— About 500 power poles need to be replaced. Alliant began receiving shipments of new poles directly from the manufacturer overnight following an emergency declaration by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
— The UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown building sustained extensive damage. After quick thinking of staff prevented injuries of any patients or staff, crews evacuated 43 patients to facilities in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Ames and Grinnell, said Pam Dellagradel, chief executive officer of UnityPoint Health-Waterloo. The Marshalltown emergency department has moved to its Medical Campus location on the south side of the city, where emergency care and urgent care are operational, she said. All services and departments at the main hospital are closed today and all elective surgeries, procedures and appointments are canceled.
— The Lennox Industries manufacturing plant suffered extensive damage.
— About 28 displaced people were at the American Red Cross shelter at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama. Mark Tauschek, regional communications officer, said the shelter will stay open as long as needed, but is looking at moving to a site within the city.
“It was really incredible to hear the people coming in,” Tauschek said. “I don’t know where they’re from, but all of them have incredible stories how they wound up there.”
Reynolds and acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg are expected to receive a damage assessment and appear at the city’s fire station at 2 p.m.
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Elder, the county emergency coordinator, said there is enough food and volunteers. Anyone wanting to assist could direct monetary donations to local charities, she said.
This is a developing story. Stay with TheGazette.com for updates.