Scott Levine.jpg

Scott Levine

Associated Press

It didn’t take long for me to realize something bad was happening Saturday in my hometown.

Thanks to constant updates from friends back home, my Facebook wall was a haven Saturday night for up-to-date information on Creston, before any news outlets knew the severity of the EF-2 tornado that decimated part of my former (and most of my wife’s and my family’s current) town. Posts describing a tornado ripping through a barn and forcing residents into the basement were made public before KCCI, the Des Moines television outlet that covers Southwest Iowa, reported that Greater Regional Medical Center had been hit.

Without much more than a few paragraphs about damage to the hospital, my wife and I remained glued to our computer screen, dotting through every local media outlet and keeping up with everyone’s posts. At first, it appeared that the hospital was the only major landmark hit. By the night’s end, we knew that it was much worse, albeit without any fatalities or major injuries so far.

After checking in with our parents, who lost power, much like the entire town, we began seeing the first glimpses of the town on Facebook and other media outlets. When going to bed Saturday, it appeared only the hospital, AEA and Southwestern Community College, my alma mater, were the only buildings that took massive hits.

However, when the sun rose Sunday, it became a little gloomier. The elementary/middle school and the high school suffered damage, along with multiple houses along a major street, called Townline Road, that were either flattened or damaged.

The tornado didn’t mind sweeping through brand new dorm rooms at SWCC, or through the hospital, which was undergoing renovations that would be unveiled in a grand opening in a few weeks. The storm also didn’t mind blowing through the deck and garage of one of my best friend’s mom’s house. I spent many days during high school on that deck, and now, it’s just another piece of debris scattered amid the ruins.

Only a third of the high school football field’s scoreboard remained after the storm. Now although I didn’t see much playing time in my football career, I remember vividly staring up at the scoreboard on cold nights, trying to urge the clock to move faster. Most of the time that technique just worsened my problem.

But the most amazing part of this story is not the amount of memories or buildings erased by the tornado. People in Creston should be thankful that no one was seriously injured (as of last report, there’s still one person in critical care in Des Moines). Just this past weekend, the storm that caused so much damage in Iowa claimed lives in Oklahoma, and that community received a warning, although a minimal one at 3 minutes.

No sirens went off in Creston, creating confusion and exposing many residents to the harsh effects of 130 mph winds. Many stories have surfaced regarding the unpreparedness of residents because of the lack of warning, making it even more remarkable everyone is alive.

Officials from Creston acknowledged the sirens were working, but no warning was ever given to the city about the tornado. According to them, the twister happened so fast, that there was not enough warning to sound the sirens.

With the disaster behind everyone, cleanup efforts started Monday, only after officials told residents to stay home and out of more bad weather Sunday. And if Facebook was any indication of how many people were willing to help, the town won’t take long to get back on its feet.

Dozens of Facebook posts related to volunteering opportunities and it appeared that almost everyone was willing to step forward somehow to help. I didn’t expect anything different from a community that has always been tight, with it having about 7,500 residents.

And no matter how difficult the next week and months will be, the town will pull together, because as hard as it is to pick up debris and rebuild buildings, it’s much easier doing those chores knowing no one is physically hurt.

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