Parkersburg, IA, reeling from a recent tornado that devastated the town, could look to nearby Charles City for a silver lining.
"Iowans who helped plan the rebuilding of Charles City after a deadly tornado there 40 years ago have some advice for their neighbors in the next county south: As unlikely as the thought seems amid the raw pain of today, look at this as an opportunity for your city.
Charles City, which had nearly 10,000 people as of the 1960 census, was considerably bigger than Parkersburg's population of 1,900. But the death toll and damage from tornadoes that descended May 15, 1968, were greater, too. Seventeen people died across northeast Iowa, including 13 in Charles City; 600 people were injured; and 372 homes and 58 businesses were destroyed. The twister cut right through the central business district.
So that's where city leaders put much of their focus. It had needed work anyway. Even before the storm, water and sewer pipes were badly deteriorated, said John Culbertson, who served on the Planning and Zoning Commission at the time. Rebuilding offered the opportunity to shore up the city's basic infrastructure while also sketching more grandiose plans to make the business district work better for shoppers, walkers and drivers."