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T-R FILE PHOTO – Many trees, like this one at Grimes Farm, were damaged during the derecho in August of 2020.

Throughout the last three years there have been two major disasters that have rammed through Marshall County, the tornado in July of 2018 and the derecho in August of 2020.

Now a full year removed from the derecho, Kim Elder, Marshalltown Emergency Management Coordinator and the county’s Homeland Security Representative, says the county is more prepared for a natural disaster than it was before.

“We’re more prepared because of the previous disasters,” Elder said. “It’s also been because of a combination of many things.”

Like it’s to be expected, Elder says there’s somethings that can be learned from all storms but different storms can teach different things.

“We learned something new each time, even though we do a lot of exercising and planning. We always know those plans are fluid, things that you think will work don’t always work,” Elder said.

Elder said that after the tornado and derecho, there’s been more of an emphasis on the details on disaster plans and making sure that disaster plans are kept up to date.

“Having an updated plan is absolutely a must. We’ve been working, we always keep the county plan updated. It’s on a rotating basis, but we’ve also reminded and worked with the local jurisdictions and cities to make sure that their plans are updated,” she said. “Making sure that they’re updated is super important, because at that moment, when the disaster strikes, you don’t have time to go back and look at your contact lists, look at your procedures and things like that.”

When the derecho happened on Aug. 10, 2020, Elder said she first heard about it from a colleague over in Boone County, who sent her a video of what damage the derecho caused over there.

Once she heard the storm was going eastward to Marshal County, Elder said she communicated with the local Alert Iowa commander to put safety measures in place.

She said she thought the storm would be a quick front but that didn’t end up being the case.

One of the things that Elder says she remembers about the storm is that the Test Iowa tent outside of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office was blown away by the storm.

The tent has yet to be found to this day.

Elder said while the storms were similar in that they caused a ton of damage, they were also a bit different than one another.

“So even though Marshalltown was more prepared, because they had gone through a recent storm, it didn’t affect all of the other communities like it did Marshalltown, so they had to go back and make sure that their plans were the way they needed to be. For the tornado, we had good plans, but there are also holes in those plans, because of the way the tornado hit and some things that we, you know, found holes in that plan we need to fix,” she said.

Elder says visiting disaster plans and exercising them should be of the utmost importance moving forward.

“I think cleaning and exercise are two things that we definitely need to keep on top of but as far as emergency management, it’s really my job to make sure that those cities have the resources that they need, that they’re updating their plans that their agreements, mutual aid agreements are in place, so that when disaster strikes, that they’re ready, and then also making sure that they are aware that I can be there to help them get the resources they need, but I also am not the first choice so they need to have their plan in place,” Elder said.

Elder said the warning sirens haven’t changed but they are encouraging places with outdated sirens to apply for grants to get new ones.

She also said there’s been more education given on storm warnings and where to go during a tornado depending on their location at the time of the storm and how far away from it they are.

At the beginning of July 1, Alert Iowa switched vendors, which means people have to re-sign up for emergency alerts and updates at this link:

Alert Iowa


Contact Sam Stuve at 641-753-6611 or sstuve@timesrepublican.com

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