IOWA DERECHO 2020

Over 90% of Marion homes, buildings were damaged in derecho

Mayor 'completely heartbroken' by the storm's widespread destruction

A tree lays on a house Thursday along 11th Street as debris is piled near the road in Marion. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette
A tree lays on a house Thursday along 11th Street as debris is piled near the road in Marion. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

MARION — Over 90 percent of Marion homes and buildings have at least some damage, according to city officials.

City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said the city has finished about 85 percent of initial inspections as of Tuesday to “at least get an inventory of the properties with identifiable damage.”

“Ninety to 95 percent of all properties in the city sustained some degree of damage,” Pluckhahn told The Gazette. “In the next few days we will have a statistical breakdown of the impacted properties.”

Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said the city estimates the cleanup will cost the city around $3 million. That expense doesn’t include the cost that individual property owners will have, he said.

The damage just to city facilities is likely to be $2 million or more, Pluckhahn added.

“When I see the damage to our town, I’m completely heartbroken,” AbouAssaly said. “The loss of trees will change our tree canopy for decades.”

Pluckhahn said the city is starting to transition from disaster response to recovery activities.

The city has brought in Southern Disaster Co. from South Carolina to provide additional equipment and to help with debris removal, Pluckhahn said.

The city also has additional personnel assigned to it from the state through Linn County Emergency Management to help with the command center, which is in City Hall.

“Of course, the Guard is active in the community supporting debris removal through Alliant, and the DOT has assigned several crews to help support us,” Pluckhahn said.

He said the city will add resources to the building division to help process permits and has reactivated the online permit tool as well.

AbouAssaly said a supply distribution center has been set up in town since Friday, staffed with volunteers. The center is at Marion Square Mall on Seventh Avenue.

According to the Tuesday city update on its website, needs include: bread, peanut butter, jelly, boxed cereal, feminine products, diapers, pull-ups, mac and cheese, canned vegetables and fruit with pull tops, small bags of pet food, fresh fruit, spaghetti sauce and instant potatoes.

Food box distributions, at the same location, take place from 1 to 3 p.m. through the week, the news release said.

“I’m energized with the outpouring of support and volunteer response,” AbouAssaly said.

The mayor said he also has been trying to respond to communications from Marion residents and make sure their needs are met as fast as possible.

“Yesterday, a woman called me in tears because her neighbor had no insulin,” he said, saying he made sure the individual got the help they needed. “This disaster made things worse and I can see the impact. It breaks my heart.”

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Additionally, the city has established “technology stations” at Thomas Park. Thirty-minute sessions are available on city-owned equipment, but residents are free to bring their own devices and connect to the city guest Wi-Fi.

The stations are open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Power strips also are available outside the Thomas Park shelter room for charging needs.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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