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Marshalltown Auction House Sees Hundreds of Thousands in Tornado Damage, Owner Says Family Will Overcome

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa  --  Tom Harris still can’t believe what he's seeing. The owner of a longstanding family-owned antique auction house, Harris was in Pennsylvania at a clock and watch expo when he got the news that his property took a direct hit from an EF3 tornado.

“My secretaries were in the building and called me and told me a tornado is hitting the building right now, so I'm like, ‘hang up and get under the desk!’” said Harris.

Harris says he loaded up the truck and started making the 18-hour trek home.  When he arrived in Marshalltown, he found his auction house had suffered considerable damage and his sale barn that held much of his inventory was destroyed.

“I stood out here in the parking lot for 15 minutes when we got home before I could function,” he said.

Harris says he's at least down a quarter to half a million dollars in destroyed inventory, and that figure could grow. He says it could take up to a year before insurance is able to sort through what is insured and what isn't.  Even in the face of disaster, however, Harris says this will not be a deathblow to the family business.

“We've moved out to Marshalltown Mall, and we're going to be there and other places, but our auction for August 11th, our clock auction is still going to happen out there. We're still going to pick up collections and we're not going to let this take us out,” he said.

Still without power, Harris credits his staff and his family with coming together to overcome tragedy.

“What are you going to do? I can't dig a hole and jump in it, I'm glad nobody ended up in one. I've got a great professional crew that's been doing this their whole life and family, and we're going to rent other buildings and do whatever we have to [in order] to have big sales and pick up collections. It's not going to stop us a bit,” said Harris.

Harris said despite the losses, he's lucky when it comes to how much inventory actually made it in the auction house. He says they're still sorting through the rubble to find out what can be salvaged.