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Looking Back: IMT Helped Rebuild Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Drive into the town of Parkersburg today, and you'd never guess guess that, five years ago, there was no town at all.

"To even envision being a part of something catastrophic, you're unable to fathom it. You really are," said current city administrator and former police chief Chris Luhring.

That was five years ago, when an EF-5 tornado ripped through the town, leveling homes and businesses and taking seven lives. It was the very first disaster that Iowa's Incident Management Team (IMT) walked in to as a unit. It was also the first time that Luhring would need their help.

"The best analogy I can give is that it's like you don't know how to play chess, and yet, these guys are helping you beat the world champion," he said.

The IMT acted as a group of outsiders who came to Parkersburg to help -- not take over. The team listened, it worked, and it happened quickly.

"Probably the quickest response you could ever imagine really happened here in Parkersburg and I give the Incident Management Team a lot of credit for that," Luhring said.

And it helped the town start rebuilding.

"I remember the next day, I mean, how many people were in town with either backhoes or excavators or whatever, just cleaning debris up," said Midwest One Bank market president Clint Ackerson.

An ATM security camera at Ackerson's bank caught a house being blown away during the tornado, and now, the house is completely rebuilt.

Seeing how that house, and how the entire community was rebuilt, makes Luhring hopeful that Parkersburg could be a model for other towns to do the same.

And, he said, the IMT is a model for how any state can help its towns and cities come back from a disaster.

"When they are needed, they are an asset that Iowans cannot do without. A community will not be able to do it without them," Luhring said.
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