3 years after the EF5 tornado of 2008 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

3 years after the EF5 tornado of 2008

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PARKERSBURG (KWWL) -

"911 what's your emergency?  Caller: Parkersburg is looking bad, real bad. 911: We've got 'em all coming."  That was one of the many calls to 911 on May 25, 2008 after a tornado rated 5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale ravaged parts of eastern Iowa.

The Memorial Day weekend tornado changed the lives of thousands of Iowans and caused millions of dollars worth of damage.  It killed eight people.

The twister first touched down in Parkersburg around 5:00 p.m. that Sunday afternoon and stayed on the ground for dozens of miles.  It destroyed everything in its path, which took it through New Hartford, Dunkerton and Hazleton.  The half mile wide tornado destroyed 282 homes and 22 businesses and the Aplington-Parkersburg High School.  Debris from the twister was found as far away as Wisconsin.  Photographs found by people in the tri-states that broadcast on KWWL were returned to storm victims.  It wasn't much, but meant a lot to the people who could recover some of their memories.

Support poured in after the storm.  People pledged $336,000 in the KWWL Neighbors Helping Neighbors telethon that benefited the American Red Cross and its tornado recovery efforts in eastern Iowa.

The young people didn't forget.  In fact, they learned to pay it forward.  86 students from Aplington-Parkersburg traveled to Mapleton last month to help pick up debris.  An EF3 tornado destroyed 60 percent of the town.  School administrators found it only fitting to help after they saw volunteers do the same with their town.

After the tornado and floods of 2008, New Hartford's only gas station decided not to rebuild.  The Kwik Star Company instead building a bigger store in Parkersburg.  But a sign of recovery came in 2010 with a new gas station now open along Highway 57.  The groundbreaking was held in September for "The Curve" gas station, named that due to its location on the part of the highway that curves around New Hartford.

C-SPAN came to Parkersburg earlier this month because of a film made about the tornado.  Matthew Wicks won first place in a nationwide documentary competition.  His video "After the Storm" earned him honors and a $3,000 prize.  Wicks is a junior at Aplington-Parkersburg High School.

There's a new documentary premiering June 1, about the lessons learned in the Iowa disasters of 2008.  It plays at the State Historical Society in Des Moines.  Wartburg Television put it together in partnership with Rebuild Iowa.  It features interviews with leaders from disaster-affected communities about the local recovery and what they learned from the tornadoes and floods of 2008.

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