The people of Mapleton, Iowa, have spent the past two years cleaning up from the devastating tornado of April 9, 2011.
The recovery has drained their patience and emptied pocketbooks. It also has kept them from getting a lot of other things done — such as, say, disposing of that old refrigerator in the basement that has gathered dust for years.
So the city will commemorate the second anniversary of the tornado this week with a cleanup effort that includes free curbside pickup of large items.
“This year we decided to do something completely different, yet relevant somewhat, to commemorating the anniversary,” said Jill Cameron, a founder and member of Mapleton Special Events Committee.
“Just giving people an opportunity who didn't get some things cleared out.”
The ¾-mile-wide tornado roared in from the southwest on that Saturday evening in 2011, destroying 46 homes and 21 business properties. Almost every building in town was damaged, but no one was killed.
Last year the city marked the first anniversary with a community dinner in the gymnasium of Maple Valley-Anthon Oto High School.
This year the commemoration is more low key.
Starting Tuesday, the anniversary of the storm, the city will set up three large dumpsters at its shed on the south side of town: one for lumber, one for metal and one for regular household waste. People can drop off items through Saturday afternoon.
Also on Tuesday, free paper-shredding will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Security National Bank on Fourth Street.
Friday only, there will be a covered dumpster set out for electronic items such as old computers and printers.
Also, Thursday through Saturday, volunteers will pick up larger items that people can't move themselves —a couch, for example —that are set curbside.
The twister and the town's recovery have spurred Mapleton residents to keep things looking nice, Cameron said.
“We chose this event to continue the momentum of keeping the community looking good,” she said. “It raises the morale.”
Mapleton, a city of about 1,225 people about 85 miles northeast of Omaha, still has many empty lots where homes were before the tornado.
Marie Whiteing, coordinator of the Mapleton Rebuild and Recover committee and foundation, said the city is still studying what to do with that green space. It has received several ideas from landscape architecture students at Iowa State University, but no decisions have been made.
People in town are trying to get back to their pre-tornado routines. Mapleton churches are starting to focus again on youth activities, which went by the wayside as adults focused on tornado recovery.
“I get the sense that people want to move on,” Whiteing said. “We don't talk too much tornado anymore.”
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