by Sienna Attema
A tornado rated EF-3 with 144 mph winds blew through Pella on July 19. It hit Vermeer and badly damaged plants 5 and 6. Plants 4 and 7 also had minor damages.
Almost 25% of PC students and staff has a family member that works at Vermeer. Many of the employees were not affected by the tornado, but some were affected by injuries, fewer hours, or working overtime. “My Dad is an electrician and was called into work about an hour after the tornado hit to make sure that everything was turned off. He then went into work everyday after that and worked about 12 hours a day when he usually does 9 1/2 hours,” one junior said.
Although not many injuries occured, there were a few minor ones. “My uncle works at Vermeer, and he had an injured shoulder from flying debris, but it was not near as bad as it could have been!” said one senior.
Besides Vermeer, the tornado also hit 11% of the student body’s properties and their own jobs were affected as well. “They told me and my crew to take shelter and we told them no we wanted to finish our job,” another junior said.
Another junior sheltered with children in a basement for an hour. “I worked at a daycare that has 40-50 kids each day. Needless to say we all got a little restless and the kids were crabby because they didn’t get to finish their snack,” she said.
A number of PC students were at the Mahaska County Fair when the tornado hit. “A group of 4-H’ers, some from PCHS had to stay in the cattle washroom for safety,” said sophomore Katherine Wielard.
Just a mile away from Vermeer, PCHS escaped disaster. “I was at school and watched the tornado off to the northeast, but it was hard to see clearly from this side,” said principal Dan Van Kooten. “We had one birch tree outside school that snapped, and we had a little siding on one of the athletic building’s pillars that peeled off. I was praying that the tornado would not hit school! I could definitely hear it off in the distance – one of the most eerie and powerful and terrible sounds I’ve ever heard.”