Despite an unexpected tempest Wednesday night, RAGBRAI organizers said the emergency plan smoothly transitioned riders to much-needed shelter.
"The emergency plan worked like a charm," Kim Elder, director of Marshall County emergency management, said.
She said organizers were expecting a storm that was about an hour out when the minor storm hovering over Marshalltown suddenly developed into a more serious storm.
T-R PHOTO BY LUKE STALZER
Riders trickle out of Marshalltown late Thursday morning as they make their way to Cedar Rapids. With thousands of bikers in town, many were forced to take shelter as a severe storm passed through the area causing damage to campsites at the Central Iowa Fairgrounds.
"We scrambled a bit," she said. "We lost a few tents and supplies."
The worst of the damage was contained to the Central Iowa Fairgrounds, where the storm displaced nearly 200 people. However, Elder said she doesn't know how much supplies campers were able to recover once the storm had passed.
The storm hit fairgrounds much worse than Riverview Park, the biggest campsite, which was virtually unscathed.
Riders of the storm
Jim Poel of London, Ontario, Canada and four fellow riders had planned to camp out on Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA grounds Wednesday night.
The severe thunder storm changed their plans.
"Our tents were blowing around and then the Y staff urged us to come in," he said. "Their concern and hospitality was appreciated."
A number of Riverview Park campers never made it back to the park, they were shuttled from sites to the Coliseum, which served as a make-shift shelter.
Todd Bartleson, of Des Moines, remained in his tent at Riverview Park during the storm.
"I made some adjustments to the tent's guy wires and only a little bit of water came in," he said.
Marshalltown's Trinity Lutheran Church hosted approximately 600 riders due to the storm, according to Rev. Gregg Davison. "Everybody was happy to get out of the stormy weather.
The sanctuary is a comfortable place to sleep - as some parishioners know from first-hand experience, Davison said.
-Compiled By Mike Donahey
"There was no rhyme or reason, just like any storm," Elder said.
Although some of the night's entertainment, specifically its headlining Little River Band, were cancelled, Elder said many riders were understanding.
Event organizers managed to relocate roughly 400 riders into the basement of the Coliseum, the Marshalltown Police Department, The Salvation Army, Fisher Community Center and various local churches, she said.
More than 15,000 riders registered for RAGBRAI and many more were unregistered, which means a majority of riders either had their own accommodations or extended what they had to those in need.
"Compared to what our numbers were, we were really lucky," Elder said.
Reports of power outage were limited to Melbourne, and even then, Elder guessed that fewer than 10 homes were without power.
Shannon Espenscheid, director of the Marshalltown Convention and Visitors Bureau and chair of the RAGBRAI committee, said that roughly 75 percent of riders were already on their way to the next stop in Cedar Rapids by 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
"It's really going well," she said. "Business as usual."
Espenscheid said she spoke to several riders about Wednesday's storm, and they told her this usually happens at least once during a ride and not to worry too much about it.
No injuries were reported because of the storm.
Lynn Olberding, a volunteer coordinator for the event, said volunteers and city workers had already begun cleaning by early Thursday morning.
"Our first priority was getting the riders to safety, the volunteers to safety," she said.
A call to Alliant Energy to confirm or deny reports of a downed power line and other outage-related information was not immediately returned.