Rebuilding in Hazleton: one year after the tornado - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Rebuilding in Hazleton: one year after the tornado

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by Bob Waters

HAZLETON (KWWL) -- After hitting Dunkerton, the storm moved into the Buchanan County town of Hazleton.

Some families saw their homes obliterated in a matter of seconds.

They say the rebuilding process will continue for possibly years.

The tornado that came through carved a path 43 miles long from Parkersburg to near Fairbank before dissipating.

But another tornado formed in that same storm that came down in Buchanan County.

That storm left its own path of destruction.

Hazleton's mayor and fire chief watched the storm blow through outside the fire station.

"We actually saw stuff whirling in it from standing in front of the fire station but it was so wide we couldn't see the funnel itself," said Hazleton mayor Roger Carson.

The storm brushed the southern edge of town passing directly over Fontana Lake.

But that also put Hazleton fire chief Arne Dettbarn's house directly in its path.

"It leveled all the buildings except the corn crib. It left a bit of the barn and a cattle shed. On the house, only the wall studs," said Dettbarn.

The tornado flattened not just the Dettbarn's home, but also his three sons homes.

They all live within a half-mile of each other.

The whole family has spent the last year retrieving, rebuilding and recovering.

"All of our clothes were gone. We had some furniture and tvs but they were wet. Some worked, some didn't but most of our stuff was gone," said Dustin Dettbarn.

"Basically everything blew away. Nothing even to clean up down there so we pretty much worked down here," said Kyle Dettbarn.

So the Dettbarn family has alternated weeks working to rebuild each home.

They've worked side-by-side, day after day.

"We were really close before. You can't tear that apart but it was really stressful because when you want to be helping one boy, you should be helping the other boy, so it's terrible stress," said Arne Dettbarn.

They say physical labor and honest communication has helped them deal with the stress.

Still, there's a long way to go.

Arne and wife Julie's property still shows the scars from the storm.

Over the hill, middle son Dustin and wife Ryan's home has been replaced.

Across the street, youngest son Kyle's place is part body shop, part apartment.

To the east, the tornado did less damage to oldest son Chad and wife Jennifer's place but subsequent mold caused a total rebuild.

And in all of this, four weeks ago, Jennifer gave birth to twin girls.

The Dettbarns family ties are strong and after the storm, they're even stronger.

"When you come right down to it, as long as we've got family, we've got what we need," said Julie Dettbarn.

"We wouldn't have anything without family. It's just - you can't do anything by yourself. You just can't do it," said Kyle Dettbarn.

Back in town, most of the two dozen homes and businesses damaged in the storm are getting back on their feet.

The storm left a lasting memory on all who saw it or felt its wrath.

"I hope the rest of my life. I never see another one. That was within two blocks. That's as close as I need to ever come to one," said Carson.

Many in Hazleton say storm recovery efforts in Parkersburg and Cedar Rapids overshadowed what happened to them and slowed relief efforts.

They say if it weren't for friends, family, and the hordes of volunteers who showed up pretty much unannounced, they would have never been able to recover as much as they have.

That's why the Dettbarns are throwing a huge thank you party for those who went through the storm and who came out after to help.

They say that's the least they could do.

Online Reporter: Bob Waters

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