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Top of damaged South Sioux City grain elevator demolished

June 12, 2018 GMT

SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- Nearly two weeks after it exploded, the Andersen Farms grain elevator came toppling down.

Using some extra equipment following some unsuccessful demolition attempts over the weekend, Terminal Solutions of Radcliffe, Iowa, was able to dismantle the top of the structure shortly after 6 p.m. Monday.

The successful demolition meant approximately two dozen families who had been displaced for two weeks due to the threat of the grain elevator falling down on its own were expected to sleep in their own beds Monday night.

“We’re elated,” South Sioux City Fire Chief Clint Merithew said of the demolition. “It’s been a long two weeks.”

An explosion blew a large hole in the grain elevator’s side shortly before 1 p.m. May 29, due to a cause that’s still unknown. One employee, a male, was hospitalized with severe burns.

In the immediate aftermath, South Sioux City authorities cordoned off the area surrounding the elevator and evacuated nearby homes in the case the badly damaged structure would collapse.

Terminal Solutions had begun work at the scene Thursday evening and continued work Friday and Saturday. Under initial attempts to bring it down safely using cables and excavators, the elevator proved more durable than expected, surviving repeated attempts to topple it.

Merithew said part of the reason was the contractor was pulling the structure in the opposite direction it was expected to fall -- away from the homes.

The contractor brought additional equipment to the site on Monday, and the added pull was enough.

“Once he brought the extra two excavators in, the needed horsepower, we got the call and they said 5 to 10 minutes,” Merithew said. “It was down within two.”

Merithew said about 100 feet of the tower remains in the air, but that portion has been deemed safe. Terminal Solutions will use a wrecking ball to demolish the rest of the structure, he said, and then will clear out the subterranean portion.

The future of the grain bins, which the state fire marshal had deemed undamaged, will be determined later.

Weather, feared to be a potential problem as South Sioux City sat in a tornado watch early Monday evening, caused minimal issues. Rain picked up in the seconds following the demolition, just as the cloud of dust began to form.

Like Merithew, South Sioux City Police Chief Ed Mahon said he was pleased with the completion of Monday’s demolition.

“He’s done what he said he was going to do, and he’s done a really good job for us,” he said of the contractor. “Now we can move on. He’s done his job and we’ll do ours: move the people back in.”

Members of the South Sioux City Police Department on Monday also volunteered to mow lawns for some of the impacted homeowners who gave them permission.

Merithew said the gas company would work on returning gas to the affected homes Tuesday.

The state of emergency, declared May 30 by the City of South Sioux City, remains in effect. Merithew said the council deferred a vote on lifting it during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday.

-- The Journal’s Morgan Matzen contributed to this report.