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Learning from April Tornadoes

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Many eastern Iowans know what its like to rebuild in the aftermath of an April Tornado. One corridor community says its residents are safer now because of a tornado that destroyed some buildings eight years go.

Iowa City officials say now that theyre much better prepared for the weather weve seen over the past few days because of an event in the spring of 2006. For anyone who lived in the area then, its not a time that theyd easily forget.

Well first off, April 13th, 2006 was a very, very hot and humid day, said the St. Patrick Catholic Church Parish Event Coordinator Cheryl Schropp.

After mass that day, it quickly became clear that the weather was taking a turn for the worst. Cheryl and the other people still there took shelter inside the Churchs Rectory.

"At one point, some of us felt pressure, but we weren't quite sure what it was, said Schropp.

That pressure was the tornado passing by, stripping off part of the churchs roof before hitting other parts of the city. Back then, damage was so bad that even first responders couldnt get through.

"One of the problems we had specifically in this area where we have large, mature trees is that it pulled the trees out of the ground and with the roots of the trees came the gas mains," said Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse.

But now, Fosse says city workers already have protocol for events with a lot of damage. That allows them to clear the streets as quickly as possible. With eight passing years, they now also use new technology to better warn and inform people.

"One of the areas is in our alert systems. We've worked with the Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator and there have been substantial improvements there, said Fosse.

Tied to that alert system is the Tornado Safe Shelter at Hickory Hill Park. Normally its locked but when that alert sounds, the doors can be automatically opened to keep people safe.

"One of the other things that exist now is a reverse notification system," said Fosse.

That system lets people know through texts and emails when its safe to come out from shelter.

"We're better prepared to respond to these events because of the experience we've had," said Fosse.
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