PELLA, Iowa -- Just days after a tornado ripped through Vermeer manufacturing, first responders and business owners describe the way the community came together.
Pella Police Officer Joshua Boone was one of the first people to respond after the tornado hit.
“As I was turning down Vermeer was when I saw the power lines start to arch and noticed the tornado had gone by. I pull up and the gas pipe had ruptured and there was a gas leak out by plant five and there was a very strong smell of natural gas. I had to back up because it was hard to breathe. Really it sounded like there was a jet engine on the roof, and I thought we were going to have some pretty significant injuries,” Boone said.
Boone thought it was impressive to see how fire, EMS, and emergency management personnel came together as one unit.
“It was truly an honor to be a part of something like that. To see Jasper County, Grinnell, Poweshiek County, emergency responders from every neighboring area came to lend a hand,” Boone said.
Thankfully, only seven people were injured out of the thousands of employees and customers on site.
“People were coming in to help. Volunteered to help move cars that were completely in just wreckage. The amount of response from our community, it says something about the town, it says something about this area, that it’s just truly a remarkable area to live in,” Boone said.
Not only was the damage to the building shocking, but cars were also tossed around and stacked like toys.
The local Ford-Lincoln dealership is stepping in to help those who lost their vehicles, and many of them were brought into the company's collision center.
"So a lot of these people are going to need vehicles right away. It takes a while to go through the adjuster situation and all of that, but we are trying to help out in ways if we can help them with loaner vehicles until they get settled, and things like that. Whatever way we can help make life a little easier for them," Co-Owner of Ulrich Ford - Lincoln Chuck Vander Waal said.
For those Vermeer employees or customers who end up buying a new car, the dealership will take $1,000 off their best price or help them find a used replacement vehicle.
“And that’s where we want to be able to try and help them, too. If they’re in a $10,000 car or a $5,000 or a $20,000, you know, maybe they’re not able to step up to buy a higher category car, but hopefully we can try to find them something in their price range,” Vander Waal said.
Vermeer President of Industrial Solutions Doug Hundt said in a statement on Tuesday, “I’m proud to report that we have half of our plants back and operational as of Monday morning. Our parts center is also operational. We have a plan to restore two of those plants within the next two weeks and we are working on a plan to reposition the two hardest hit plants.”
Boone believes the community is strong.
"I have no doubt that Vermeer is going to bounce back stronger from this," he said. "It’s a great business. It provides a lot of opportunities for members in the city, as well as the surrounding areas. Everyone’s got their eye on Vermeer, and I think they’re going to be just fine after this."