Memorial Day marked the one-year anniversary of an E-F-5 tornado that hit Parkersburg and other Northeast Iowa communities, leaving eight people dead and nearly 70 others injured. Parkersburg’s annual ceremony to honor local veterans also celebrated the recovery effort in a town that was heavily damaged by the twister.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver attended the ceremony, along with his wife and two children. The May 25th, 2008 twister destroyed nearly a third of Parkersburg, while cutting a 43-mile path of destruction through three counties.
During his speech, Culver acknowledged who he called "the heroes" of the tornado — the people who provided comfort and care to those the residents in need.
Culver says residents of Parkersburg should be commended for their resiliency in the aftermath of the twister. According to city officials, 80 percent of the 222 homes demolished by the tornado are rebuilt, as are a majority of the 21 businesses. Culver says it’s good to see the community recovering.
The nearby town of New Hartford held similar ceremonies to mark the tornado’s one-year anniversary. After leaving Parkersburg, the governor attended a tree-planting ceremony held in memory of Leasa Bleeker and Norman Beutheun. During the gathering at a city park, Culver announced that local legislators have secured more funding to help New Hartford recover from the tornado and last summer’s historic flood.
A cemetery re-dedication and community potluck also were part of the tornado anniversary events in New Hartford.