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Northern Iowa town reflects on destructive 2008 tornado

May 25, 2016 GMT
This May 25, 2008 photo shows damage to a neighborhood, west along Highway 57 in Parkersburg, Iowa after an EF5 tornado passed through the town.  It's been eight years since a massive tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in Parkersburg, and city leaders say the northern Iowa town's revival is a model for other communities recovering from natural disasters. (Rick Chase/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
This May 25, 2008 photo shows damage to a neighborhood, west along Highway 57 in Parkersburg, Iowa after an EF5 tornado passed through the town.  It's been eight years since a massive tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in Parkersburg, and city leaders say the northern Iowa town's revival is a model for other communities recovering from natural disasters. (Rick Chase/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
This May 25, 2008 photo shows damage to a neighborhood, west along Highway 57 in Parkersburg, Iowa after an EF5 tornado passed through the town.  It's been eight years since a massive tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in Parkersburg, and city leaders say the northern Iowa town's revival is a model for other communities recovering from natural disasters. (Rick Chase/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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This May 25, 2008 photo shows damage to a neighborhood, west along Highway 57 in Parkersburg, Iowa after an EF5 tornado passed through the town. It's been eight years since a massive tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in Parkersburg, and city leaders say the northern Iowa town's revival is a model for other communities recovering from natural disasters. (Rick Chase/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
1 of 4
This May 25, 2008 photo shows damage to a neighborhood, west along Highway 57 in Parkersburg, Iowa after an EF5 tornado passed through the town. It's been eight years since a massive tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in Parkersburg, and city leaders say the northern Iowa town's revival is a model for other communities recovering from natural disasters. (Rick Chase/The Courier via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

PARKERSBURG, Iowa (AP) — It’s been eight years since a massive tornado destroyed nearly 300 homes and killed nine people in the northern Iowa city of Parkersburg, and city leaders say the town’s revival is a model for other cities recovering from natural disasters.

The May 25, 2008, twister caused $100 million in damage, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (http://bit.ly/247FjjW ) reported. But the community didn’t dwell on the destruction and moved quickly to repair the damage, City Administrator Chris Luhring said.

He highlighted the fact that Aplington-Parkersburg High School, which the tornado destroyed, was reconstructed in time to hold classes in the fall of 2009. High school students attended classes at the Aplington elementary and middle schools while the building was being rebuilt.

“You had to fix the physical before you could fix the psychological,” Luhring said. “It’s hard for a high school kid to feel normal when they’re drinking out of an elementary school water fountain.”

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The one-year goal for the $19 million school reconstruction seemed impossible, Luhring said, but there was a sense of urgency to get the project finished quickly.

The school’s reconstruction restored hope in the community, he said, and the city has awarded 250 new residential building permits since 2008.

New residents came to Parkersburg because of its successful revival, said Mayor Perry Bernard, whose home was destroyed in the storm.

“It’s been eight years, and some people passing through have no clue that a tornado ever went through here,” he said.

Luhring said the city’s rapid regrowth has become a model for other cities facing similar disasters.

“It’s nice to be a model and have other communities call up asking for advice,” he said. “We get to give them advice and say, ‘This works.’”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com