I finally drove through downtown Iowa City yesterday and got a look at the damage from the tornado last Friday. It came into town from the southwest, running east along Highway One West damaging cars and buildings at most of the car dealerships along ‘dealership row’. If you’re looking for a deal on a storm-damaged car, truck, or SUV, Iowa City is definitely the place to be looking right now. It smashed a good-sized hole in the roof of the Menard’s store, too.

Then it turned northeasterly, ripping up Linder’s tire and cutting across Riverside drive, where it tore the roof off another car dealership and tossed their inventory around like Matchbox cars. It knocked a hole in the McDonald’s sign, ruined the back half of Professional Muffler, and totally flattened the 54-year-old Diary Queen. Thankfully, the owner says they’ll rebuild. 🙂

The twister took out about half the trees in Riverside Park before crossing the Iowa River, which had lots of limbs and even large trees floating in it. It just nicked the edge of the University of Iowa Campus, where it ripped the roof off the Motor Pool. Then it headed up Burlington Avenue, taking out all the traffic lights downtown. When I drove through late Monday afternoon, police were still directing traffic by hand at all the downtown intersections. Lots of plate glass was blown out downtown, and there was a lot of damage to roofs and trees. Like most tornadoes, this one seemed to skip around, picking its targets. For example, the Happy Joe’s Pizza on Gilbert Street was totally demolished, while all the buildings surrounding it were relatively unscathed.

Some of the worst damage was done to the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, which lost a roof and wall, and to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, which lost the entire roof.

The tornado then headed East up Market Street, thankfully missing Mercy Hospital. There were dozens and dozens of big, old trees uprooted and damaged in this area, and I saw several roofs completely or partially damaged.

Emergency services were busy. I saw the Salvation Army’s ‘Emergency Canteen’ trailer handing out sandwiches and beverages on Market St., and the State Farm Insurance claims RV was parked downtown in Rebel Plaza by the Post Office. Rebel Plaza lost imost of its roof, but the Post Office looked fine and was handling a good crowd on Monday due to Income Tax filing.

They say there was $12 million in damage, half of it to the University.

It’s encouraging to see how people here have turned out to help one another. Everyone who was made homeless has already found a place to stay, and volunteer cleanup crews made quick work of cleaning up downtown, the campus, and neighborhoods.

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