Storm delivers blow to Mapleton merchants

Storm delivers blow to Mapleton merchants


MAPLETON, Iowa -- Shari Erlemeier bent over to pick up one of the metal screws scattered in front of the Mapleton Grain Co. offices on Sunday.

"I don't want anybody to drive over one and get a flat tire," Erlemeier said as she and other employees cleaned up debris from a large tornado that ripped through the town the night before.

Of the company's  2 million bushels of storage capacity, about 95 percent sustained some damaged, said Erlemeier, who operates the business with her husband, Leo, and her brother, Tony Elmquist. The high winds flattened some bins and twisted and mangled the corrugated steel of others.

Just one of the company's six legs, which elevate and direct grain to the storage bins, was working after the storm. The damage left the more than 650,000 bushels of corn and 112,000 bushels of soybeans in storage exposed to the elements.

"The tops of the bins are gone," Erlemeier said. "It'd be really nice if we don't see any rain for a few weeks, but that's not realistic since we're in the month of April."

Mapleton Grain Co was among nearly a dozen businesses that sustained storm damage.

The tornado hit the showroom and service center at Mac's Chevrolet, the town's only new car dealer in town. All of the roughly 70 vehicles parked outside, including around 35 new models, also received at least some damage, said Heather McNamara, whose father, Tom, owns the dealership.

The winds picked up one vehicle parked on one side of the service center, and moved it around to the back of the building, in front of a service bay.

"I was down here last night," McNamara said, as she took a break from sweeping up broken glass. "I was speechless. You just look at it, and think, 'Where do you even start?' "


It's uncertain when the dealership, which employs 20 people, will reopen, she said.

The Bomgaars store sustained some damage to its exterior and roof, including having a wooden rafter from another structure crash through the ceiling into the clothing department. But the farm and ranch store managed to stay open on Sunday to keep residents stocked up with needed merchandise.

With the power out, the store brought in a generator to run the cash registers and used flashlights to guide customers through the aisles, said Dave Meyer, senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Sioux City-based retailer.

In the afternoon, Bomgaars brought a semi-trailer truck loaded with essential supplies, including generators, chain saws, tarps, rope, said Meyer, who assisted the local staff with the cleanup.

Also open Sunday was the Fiesta grocery store, which also relied on a generator to ring up sales.

The high winds blew out the windows of several storefronts, including the M Horse Shoppe, located at the intersection of Main and Fourth Street. Matt Pawlowski and his wife, Traci, operate the store, which carries western supplies and gifts. But, just a few doors down, the glass was spared at a restaurant the couple also owns.

Pawlowski said he planned to reopen the eatery as soon as the power came back on. 

The storm largely spared downtown businesses east of Fourth Street.




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