Twenty-five employees of a car dealership in Muscatine a glad to be alive, and unharmed, after a tornado ripped their lot over the noon hour today. Jimmy Greenhaw is the Sales Manager at Toyota of Muscatine.
He says they’re located on a hill and saw the funnel cloud taking shape. Greenhaw says the twister ripped the roof off a nearby McDonald’s, "We saw the debris and chunks of roof flying through the air and that’s when I grabbed my employees and we headed for the storm shelter." Greenhaw says his 25 employees packed inside a 12 by 12 foot concrete shelter when the tornado hit the dealership.
"We felt it hit the building, it sucked the air completely out of the building, which popped everybody’s ears," Greenhaw says, "so we were scared the building was coming down – it sounded like a giant freight train." Greenhaw says no one was hurt, but the damage is significant.
He says the building’s roof, air conditioning, and gas lines are damaged, "We also have cars on top of cars – and glass busted out of roughly half of our cars, both new and used." Pieces of buildings from neighboring businesses also found their way into the dealership’s lot.
Greenhaw says there’s debris from Wendys, McDonald’s, the racquetball court, and Applebees, "You wouldn’t believe it." Considering the tornado’s intensity, Greenhaw says he’s surprised the main building wasn’t destroyed.
Greenhaw describes it as "basically a pole building, covered in stucco, there’s really not much to it." He’s thankful for the storm shelter, "I thought if the building goes, I was praying that this (storm shelter) room would stand." Greenhaw says the entire event happened in a matter of seconds.
Iowa Department of Transportation spokesperson, Dena Gray-Fisher, says a state facility in Muscatine County was hit by a tornado. She says the Muscatine maintenance facility, which includes a number of outbuildings and a main maintenance building, suffered "severe" damage. Gray-fisher says equipment was damaged as were a couple of pole buildings and they’re inspecting the main building for damage as well.
Gray-Fisher says all but one member of the staff were out doing their maintenance duties, and no-one was injured. Gray-Fisher says damage left over from the storm is causing problems in Muscatine. She says there are a number of traffic lights that are out, and that is causing some traffic concerns. Gray-Fisher says D-O-T crews are also reporting debris along roadways that is causing problems as well.