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'We were lucky:' Rockford cleans up after huge storm (with photos, videos)

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ROCKFORD | The a day after a storm and at least one tornado scattered debris and knocked down trees, locals and volunteers worked Sunday to clean the Rockford area.

Most are just happy and grateful the damage wasn’t worse.

“It happens, I mean, property is nothin’,” Gordon Santee said. “At least no one got hurt.”

Santee was working with a friend to cut of branches of the large tree that fell on his pickup truck.

The tree had been pulled from its roots and tipped onto the truck during the severe thunderstorm and possible tornado Saturday. The windshield was damaged, but they would have to get the tree off of it to really know how bad the damage was.

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Rockford storm damage 1

Gordon Santee, of rural Rockford, clears debris from a truck parked at his home on Sunday.

Santee’s wife was raking leaves and branches in the back of the house, putting them in little piles.

The couple has lived on the property, on the 1800 block of S-70 or Zinnia Avenue in rural Floyd County, for 40 years. Santee had to get his generator going as they lost power.

“It could have been worse,” he said. “It could have been the camper.”

Santee said he usually parks the camped where the truck was parked.

Though the tree was huge, he did not hear it fall.

“That wind was, whooo, loud,” Santee said.

Just a little ways up the road, Keith Emerson was driving his four-wheeler on Zinnia Avenue near the Winnebago River, assessing the damage to properties and the tree lines.

“We’re right here between Nora Springs and Rockford,” Emerson said. “All these trees here have been damaged.”

On his property, just up the road, he had several apple trees that were knocked over by the wind.

“All the older ones,” he said. The windbreak trees were also damaged heading south.

“We’ve been here 20 years,” Emerson said. “This doesn't happen very often.”

Emerson noted that the tree lines along S-70 had recently been trimmed back and some trees removed. Had they not been removed, there could have been trees blocking the road.

Claire Wahl, of the Northwood area, was checking out his aunt’s property on 215th Street, just outside of Rockford.

“I rolled up to see her, and she isn’t even home,” Wahl said. “She’s fine though.”

Large chunks of white debris from her destroyed pole shed was thrown across corn and soybean fields to the south for more than one mile.

“Years ago the barn burned down, my uncle built up this pole shed,” he said.

Some pieces of steel and wood suck up from the ground in the fields like javelins, showing how forceful the winds were.

“It had to be a twister,” Wahl said. “I think there were two of them.”

He noted the twisted looking damage to the trees.

“You get into Rockford, and you really see a mess,” Wahl said. “It’s bad over by the school.”

He remembered the Parkersburg tornado damage and tornado damage in Charles City years ago.

“I never seen anything like that,” Wahl said.

When he was 14 or 15 years old, he said he remembered seeing a house that looked like “a dollhouse” because the front was ripped off and you could see all the rooms inside.

“It’s bad in Rockford but not that bad,” Wahl said.

Both the Shell Rock River and the Winnebago River enter city limits and caused flooding in addition to wind, possible tornado, damage. Once in town, there were dozens of trucks and equipment moving branches and debris. There were many large, tall fallen trees with roots pulling up concrete and dirt. Some of the tops of taller trees looked twisted off.  

Floyd County Deputies were directing traffic around some of the workers and volunteers.

Christian Aid Ministries worked to remove a tree that fell and leaned onto a home on the corner of West Main Avenue and Fifth Street Northwest.

Owners of the home, Cindy and Rick Merriss, were in Northwood when the storm hit.

“We had to go through that mess in Mason City,” Cindy said, referring to the flooding.

When they got home, they saw the tree and their power was out. They checked the house and noticed there were no leaks they could see and the tree caused little damage.

“We were lucky,” she said. “The guys up there working said it made a small hole.”

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Since they’ve lived in the home, about 30 years or so, they once had a tree fall on the garage.

“At least it didn’t hit the window,” Rick said.

Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School District sustained some damage to the ball diamonds, concession stand and other sheds.

District Superintendent Keith Turner said the school lost about 20 trees on the property.

“This is part of living in Iowa, I guess,” Turner said. “There’s no structure damage to our school which is good.”

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The elementary school playground was damaged with a tree uprooted and play equipment turned over. The majority of the damage occurred at the ball diamonds.

Several bleachers were mangled, turned and thrown into fences. A stadium light pole fell onto the concession stand which also serves as storage and bathrooms.

A group of students helped empty the food and drink out of the stand.

Marcia Carroll works at the concession stand and has had two kids in softball.

“That building is going to come down,” she said. The sides were bowing and creaking under the weight of the light pole.

Insulation from the building was all over the ground, siding and fencing.

“This is such a nice facility too,” Turner said, disappointed that it was damaged. “Other than that the damage is minimum.”

Images from Saturday's storm

Images from Friday's storm