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Marshall County continues to dig out from storm damage

July 14, 2011
By KEN BLACK - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

The damage extends from the southern county line to the northern county line. And while no small town was exempt from Monday's storm, some were certainly hit worse than others.

Green Mountain was one of the hardest hit areas, but access to the community was restricted Wednesday because of utility work.

"Green Mountain was just as devastated as Garwin," said Kim Elder, director of Marshall County Emergency Management Agency.

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Some rural homes in the Green Mountain area had tarps on the roof to help protect the inhabitants and contents temporarily until repairs could be made.

Just northwest of Laurel, Daniel Wright was awakened to the storm. Wednesday, the order of business was taking care of a tree that had fallen on the fence. With a 2-foot diameter, the portion of the fence was totally crushed.

"I just looked out and saw it had fallen," he said. "I didn't hear it fall, though."

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Roger Roberts’ garage in Laurel is totally destroyed after a tree landed on it Monday. Roberts said the impact of the tree on the garage shook the house and was likely what woke him up at approximately 4 a.m. that day.

Cindy Wright said it was not the wind she first noticed, but the lightning.

"It was kind of like fireworks all the time," she said. "It was just constant."

On the northern side of Laurel, Roger Roberts said he was jolted out of his sleep by the storm. At first, he noticed that the trampoline in the back yard was gone and told his wife the wind must have blown it away.

Fact Box

Why hasn't Marshall County been declared a disaster area?

While it may have happened in between this story being written and distribution to your door, as of press time, Marshall County still has not been declared a disaster area by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Kim Elder, director of the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency, said there could be several reasons why it hasn't. With all the attention focused on Garwin, she said it was natural that Tama County would get its declaration first.

"Pictures do matter," she said. "And with all the media attention, especially from Des Moines, focused there, it kind of forced their hand."

Elder quickly followed that up by saying it's not that Tama County does not merit the disaster declaration. Clearly, it does.

But, "Green Mountain got hit just as hard as Garwin," she said.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said he has been asking for a declaration since Monday. He and Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, jointly issued a press release Tuesday saying as much.

However, going into Wednesday afternoon, there was still no declaration. Since asking, Sodders has been told there was a paperwork issue.

Still, he hardly sees that as an excuse.

"I know it's a different administration," he said. "But when we had the storms in Eldora a couple of years ago I called the governor's office on my way up there and asked for a disaster declaration and it was approved, literally, two hours later, before I even left the town."

But it was when he looked to the front yard and saw his detached garage flattened by a tree that he realized why he must have woken up at that particular point.

"It shook the house and I think that's what woke me up," he said. "I looked out here and told my wife, 'Well, the garage is gone.'"

He and his family have also spent the last two days just trying to clear up as much of the debris as possible. Still, in his back yard, he said there are piles of twigs 2 feet deep.

Utility crews were working as quickly to restore power from all sides of the town as quickly as possible. All access roads to Green Mountain were blocked as a result Wednesday, but they were expected to be back open by the early evening hours, Elder said.

Green Mountain is not the only location in the county where power is still down. Cindy Wright said her home still did not have electricity, either.

In Melbourne, much of the electricity has been restored. Resident Dirk Zuercher said he got electricity back some time during the day on Tuesday, but he was not home so he did not know exactly when it was restored.

Zuercher, who was away when the storm hit, said the biggest problem later in the day Monday was trying to get home. Downed power lines and trees made travel extremely difficult, if not impossible.

"Basically, all three entrances into town were blocked," he said.

For the most part, the western portion of the county did not get hit nearly as bad as the eastern portion. Damage in Melbourne was mainly to trees, and some structures that got in the way of falling trees and branches.

In State Center, power was out some of the time, but local resident Don Goodman said he never lost power at his home on East Main Street and had no significant damage to speak of.

"I had one little branch come down and that's about it," he said. "I'd say we were lucky."

Just east of State Center, a tree came down on a storage shed and more tree damage could be seen.

Damage in Gilman was mostly limited to downed tree branches and overturned basketball goals. The same was mostly true for Albion as well.

"We're just glad we finally got the power back on," said a clerk at the Albion Casey's General Store.



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