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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds warns damage from deadly tornado is extensive

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The tornadoes and violent storms that ripped through the Midwest this week killed four people in the tiny Iowa town of Greenfield, about 50 miles southwest of Des Moines. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says the damage there was so extensive, it took over 24 hours to search the wreckage. As NPR's Frank Morris reports, the storms are over, but the grinding task of getting back to normal is just starting.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: A lot of people in southwest Iowa awoke this morning to another day of miserable work, picking through wrecked homes and searching debris fields for stuff worth keeping.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEBRIS CLATTERING)

MORRIS: In the rolling countryside, about 15 miles southwest of Greenfield, yesterday, Bill Saylor, a truck driver and rancher, let a tear roll down his cheek as he stood amid the ruins of his lifelong home.

BILL SAYLOR: All your hopes and your dreams for the last 70 years is here one minute and gone the next.

MORRIS: Jeanie Saylor and a grandson picked coins out of the splintered wood, fiberglass and other broken stuff that was once her kitchen or living room - it's hard to tell. She stood up in the heaving mess to show off a home that's no longer there.

JEANIE SAYLOR: That would have been the end of the house. So all of this was house, and it went up - over here, it went up two stories. Up above - right up above here - we had a bunk room that had enough beds in it for all 14 of our grandchildren. It's a family farm. We all work here. We work cattle together. We put up hay together.

MORRIS: It's hard to imagine this farm functioning any time soon. All the machinery is twisted up, blown apart and scattered across a muddy hillside.

J SAYLOR: It's our house, and it's our livelihood. And it's overwhelming, but it's not everything. I mean, we're alive (laughter).

MORRIS: It could have been worse. No one was home when the tornado obliterated this farmstead. Saylor says her neighbor's home collapsed on top of them. She's not sure if they survived.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY WHIRRING)

MORRIS: In Greenfield, men driving little Bobcat wheel loaders dart around scooping up rubble and carting it to the street. The tornado cut a ragged path across this older residential side of town, and there are lots of survival stories. Michelle Lund had just gotten off work.

MICHELLE LUND: My husband got all the kids to the back room. And the dog got out, so I was trying to chase the dog. And we looked outside, and you could see debris swirling. And we literally just jumped on top of the kids, and it was done.

MORRIS: The storm and their house. Lund, her husband, four kids and two dogs crawled out into an open-air living room, 4 feet deep in debris and blasted with mud. They're all OK physically.

LUND: The youngest one, I - was more scared because the older two were screaming and crying - well, the older three - and she didn't do too bad. But I think everyone's pretty stunned. It's going to take a while.

MORRIS: Lund doesn't know what to do next. Some, like the Saylors, say they fully intend to rebuild. And with luck, federal disaster assistance and insurance money, this time next year, new houses will sprout in this ravaged little town. That won't bring back the people who died, repair lingering injuries or ease the awful memories. As Lund says, getting over the storms that hit southwest Iowa this week - it's going to take a while.

Frank Morris, NPR News, Greenfield, Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Frank Morris
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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