Volunteers provide food, care in wake of Iowa tornadoes

Businesses and volunteers are pitching in to provide more than cleanup in the wake of the destructive tornadoes that swept through three cities in central Iowa earlier this week.

A meatpacking plant provided hot meals to those in need Saturday in Marshalltown, a city of 27,000 people that was hardest hit, the Times-Republican reported . The Animal Rescue League joined with local emergency management officials and a veterinary clinic to care for animals hurt or displaced.

The tornado that hit the city was among a flurry of unexpected twisters on Thursday that injured at least 17 people and flattened buildings in Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant.

Residents and weather forecasters were surprised by the storms, which left gaping holes in the sides of factories and homes. Vehicles were buried under topped buildings .

Among the buildings hit in Mashalltown was the city's historic, 132-year-old courthouse. The Marshalltown Historical Society said Saturday that despite the exterior damage, "there was miraculously little damage to our collection." The organization will temporarily move its headquarters to a nearby location.

The JBS pork processing plant in Marshalltown also suffered extensive damage. Trailers and railcars were flipped and a static freezer that held 24 million pounds of pork was heavily damaged.

"We will probably lose all of this product," general manager Todd Carl said, but added that he expects production to resume next week.

Alliant Energy said it hopes to have power in Marshalltown fully restored by mid-week. About 4,000 customers remained without power midday Saturday.

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Information from: Times-Republican, http://www.timesrepublican.com