April 6, 2007
Photo: Images of the destruction caused by the April 13, 2006 tornado captured the attention of media across the country. Below, students take a break from the cleanup outside the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house, which was destroyed by the storm. And a car that was flipped by the high winds sits in a parking lot near the campus. Photos by University Relations.
UI Reflects On April 13 Tornado Anniversary
Nearly a year has passed since tornadoes tore through Iowa City, and scars from the storm remain on the University of Iowa campus. Dozens of trees have yet to be replanted. UI Fleet Services employees continue to work in a mobile home because their building was destroyed by the storm. And Alpha Chi Omega sorority sisters are living in temporary quarters until their house is rebuilt.
But the April 13 anniversary also serves as a reminder of the strength, resilience and compassion of the campus community, UI leaders say.
"Our entire community -- the campus, Iowa City and Johnson County -- deserves tremendous credit for the way it pulled together in the days and weeks following the storm," said UI Interim President Gary Fethke. "In the past year, significant progress has been made toward restoring the campus and helping those affected by the tornado get back on their feet. I would like to thank everyone who has had a part in those efforts. This anniversary is also a time to consider those who are still dealing with the consequences of the storm. We appreciate the flexibility and patience of employees and students who are living or working in transitional quarters."
UI Provost and Executive Vice President Michael Hogan said the anniversary brings mixed emotions. While visible reminders of the loss remain, the realization that this community is so supportive is heartening, he said.
"It was a devastating moment in Iowa City history, and it could have remained just that," Hogan said. "Instead, this community turned it into a reminder of what an extraordinary place this is, and how proud we should all be to be part of it. People found endlessly creative ways to help others, even when they'd lost everything themselves. The people of the university and Iowa City communities, civic leaders like Mayor Ross Wilburn, and our community partners like the United Way and others, all rallied around the victims, and began, immediately, to rebuild what was lost, better than ever."
According to a preliminary tally, the storm -- including the tornado itself, and the heavy wind and hail that accompanied it -- caused about $3 million in damage to UI property. The figure is not final because repairs are still being completed, said Donna Pearcy, director for risk management. Insurance will cover a portion of the loss, but the UI will have some out-of-pocket expense, Pearcy said.
The UI expects to finish replanting trees by the start of the fall semester. Last May, UI officials reported that 65 mature trees were downed: a loss calculated at $287,000. Some trees were valued as high as $10,000 based on their age and species. Most of the campus's destroyed trees were along Madison and South Capitol streets, south of Burlington Street. Trees also were lost near the Lindquist Center. After plans for several campus construction projects were finalized, landscape architects determined a need to replace 52 trees. Insurance will cover the new trees, which include a variety of maples, hackberries, shingle oak, white pines and honey locust, said Bob Brooks, director of landscape services.
"It's going to be 30 years or more before some of what we plant will be close to what we had," Brooks said. "But we're very happy that the trees were recognized as an important asset that was covered by insurance. It's really giving us the opportunity to bring some life back to this part of campus with trees."
The UI conducted an online survey after the tornado to assess the degree of loss or damage UI students, faculty and staff experienced. Nearly 200 students, 35 faculty and 81 staff members reported damage or loss, although more may have been affected than responded to the survey. Only about one-third (34 percent) of those with auto damage reported being completely covered by insurance. Less than one-third (27 percent) who reported other types of damage were fully covered.
"Despite nearly 200 students being affected this way, to our knowledge, not a single one dropped out as a direct result of the situation," said Lisa Troyer, who coordinated the Provost Office's response to the tornado. "Every student who came to us seeking help with course accommodations and other forms of assistance they needed to stay in school received help and was able to finish the semester. I think this was largely because of the compassion of faculty, staff and fellow students who accommodated the students and supported them, and the extensive assistance provided by community members and agencies, like the Crisis Center."
Construction of a new Alpha Chi Omega sorority house will begin on the anniversary date. A groundbreaking and press conference is set for 9 a.m. Friday, April 13 at 828 E. Washington St., the site of the former sorority house.
Since the tornado, the sorority has moved twice into vacant fraternity houses. The sorority initially occupied one on the west side of campus, then moved to another at 729 N. Dubuque St. in August. UI junior Liz Silagi, president of the sorority, said her sisters have coped well with the transition. They are excited about the idea of a new house, which should be ready to move into by fall 2008.
"It actually hasn't been bad," Silagi said. "One thing I've been hearing over and over again from girls is that everyone feels a lot more connected now. It has really brought us together. It wasn't just a house that held us together."
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
CONTACTS: Media: Nicole Riehl, 319-384-0070, firstname.lastname@example.org;