Friday, April 14, 2006

Thinking of Iowa City

(Note: I intended to post this much earlier, as I'd been following the news all day, but didn't quite finish it before heading out for the evening.)

I was woken this morning by my sister, who had just watched the Today Show and asked if I'd seen the news of a tornado smashing through Iowa City last night. It was too late to catch anything on TV, but almost immediately, I went to the Daily Iowan and Iowa City Press-Citizen web pages to get the news, look at photos of the damage, and map out the path of the storm.

I've been staring at these pictures for most of the afternoon. It looks like a disaster area out there. Buildings with roofs completely torn off, like St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Walls caved in and toppled over. Trees uprooted. Traffic lights knocked down, signs blown out and cars overturned. Homes that have been gutted out, scattered, and torn apart. It just seems unbelievable.

(Photo by Matthew Holst/ Iowa City Press-Citizen)

A Dairy Queen near the Iowa River, where I admittedly spent way too much money during the hot summers I spent in Iowa, is gone. Only a wall is left standing. Amazingly, none of the people on the scene were killed.

Tornadoes are always a hazard this time of year in the outer Midwest as temperatures change and warm and cold fronts collide. I never dealt with any big scares during my time in Iowa City, but whenever I'd hear about storms in other parts of the state, I'd wonder 1) if my boxey cinder-block apartment could stand up to any serious weather, and 2) where the hell I would go for shelter. I don't know if that part of the city was hit as hard as the downtown area, but some of the damaged areas (such as this Honda dealership) are pretty close to my apartment complex. I'm wondering if my old place is still intact.

(Photo by Hannah van Zutphen-Khan/ Iowa City Press-Citizen)

To me, one of the things that makes these images so jolting is that the tornado caused most of its damage in downtown Iowa City, densely populated with people, residences, and businesses.
I realize other urban areas have been hit before, but it seems like most tornado destruction occurs in flat rural landscapes. That's probably an incredibly naive observation. I guess I'm just having trouble believing that buildings I used to walk and drive by every day aren't standing anymore and that people had to sleep in the student union because their homes were destroyed.

My heart definitely goes out to Iowa City and its people right now. That place will always mean something to me, and I hope everyone there is okay.

▪▪ According to The Daily Iowan, the storm was a F2 tornado, with winds reaching up to 150 mph.

▪▪ Here are three photo galleries from the Iowa City Press-Citizen.