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Return to Parkersburg

By Staff | Jun 4, 2008

In a week’s time, Emmet County Emergency Management coordinator has traveled to Parkersburg to offer support, equipment and expertise on three occasions.

Following the first mutual aid call response, Terry Reekers had to interrupt his workday agenda on May 30 after receiving a pre-dawn phone call from the emergency management coordinator in Butler County who was requesting the use of the solar-powered, low watt information radio system used in Emmet County.

Emergency response personnel were needing to use this radio as a way to inform the public of any changes or updates in operations and assistance as clean-up continues in the area where an F5 tornado struck on May 25.

“Emmet County Emergency Management is the only one in the state to have this type of radio system which can broadcast over a 12-15 mile radius,” Reekers said.

The radio is now situated on a high point near New Hartford on a slab where a residential garage once stood.

Reekers added the Iowa Department of Transportation has smaller versions of the same type of radio. “But they are not as good and don’t broadcast near as far.”

Emmet and Butler counties belong to Iowa Mutual Aid Compact which is basically an agreement to support other areas in time of need or emergency situations with equipment such as the solar-powered radio. Other IMAC participants supplied the dump trucks, end loaders and cranes to the disaster site in short order.

Reekers made the impromptu trip last Friday to deliver the radio equipment and had already marked his calendar that on Monday, June 2 he was going to Parkersburg to assist with ongoing recovery operations.

From his initial visit to May 30, Reekers saw marked improvement. “More streets are open and the debris is now stacked in piles. More power poles are going up and the utilities were back on by May 30.”

But one thing has not changed. “They are still feeding hundreds every day, victims and workers.”

When Reekers returned for the third time on June 2, he was the Emergency Operations Center commander for the 2-10 p.m. shift. In that time, he and 22 others staffed the nine phones and several computers, fielded 150 calls and countless emails involving a whole scope of different requests from injured animals to full dumpsters.

“As the commander, I made sure the staff finished the projects and assignments before the information was dispatched to the Incident Command Center,” he said. “They are hoping by the end of this week to be shutting down the EOC and ICC.”

The no movement order remains in effect. This 8 p.m. curfew forbids anyone from moving around Parkersburg.

“But they have had problems with people getting in to Parkersburg and stealing from homes. There’s been one arrest when one individual removed a TV from a demolished home.”

One thing that has remained steady is the attitude of the residents and Reekers noted the cooperation continues to be excellent.

On a somber note, the EM coordinator noted the funerals have commenced for the five Parkersburg and two New Hartford victims. “Out of respect, everyone stops what they are doing when the funeral processions pass.”

Reekers anticipates returning to Parkersburg at least one more time to lend support in whatever capacity is needed.