Sioux Center minors help Greenfield after tornado

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – Just last week, a tornado tore through Greenfield, Iowa, killing five people in the area. Another Iowa city has done its part to help those picking up the pieces.

Three players from Sioux Center’s Municipal Utilities, Troy Kunnari, Lorn Wielenga and Landon Slechta, answered the call to help restore power in Greenfield.

Their two-day trip was a powerful experience for them, but their focus was to do what they could for the residents while building from the ground up.

“I just finished putting the kids to bed, I checked my phone and saw a text from one of the guys I work with. I think all three of us said in five minutes we said we can come, so we met at the store and checked out some video, saw the extent of the damage,” Troy Kunnari recalled.

Having strength is extremely important, especially if you have lost everything. The cleanup won’t get any easier for communities ravaged by last week’s tornado, but Kunnari said being there, doing what I can and listening to those affected can go a long way in coming together.

“It helps them feel prepared to deal with the issues, because there’s just a lot of things thrown at them, not just in the refereeing world, but with people who need help and everything else,” Kunnari said. “When we got there, there were a lot of people running everywhere. Arrange things to work with and then get to work rebuilding the lines.”

Utilities Manager Murray Hulstein said Sioux Center is part of a mutual aid program in the state of Iowa, so volunteering to serve other communities in an emergency is not too unusual.

The Sioux Center has four linemen and three have volunteered for this disaster response. Hulstein said the city is trying to keep at least one referee in town just in case.

However, this was a special occasion and they were proud to play a part in helping because they knew other communities would do the same for them.

“As electric utilities go, municipalities are individually small entities, but when we all come together for a joint action like this, it gives them that extra reliability that a large utility can,” explained Hulstein.

It’s not a normal working environment for power line players, but with debris everywhere, it provides a powerful reminder of why they do what they do.

“The first step to getting people back to normal is trying to get them empowered so they can work and have the ability to get their lives back to normal,” Kunnari said.

Kunnari added that one of the most impactful things about his trip to Greenfield was hearing residents’ stories about where they were when the storm hit and letting them know he was praying for them.

“Everyone there was checking, walking around their houses trying to find something and you looked and there was nothing of value left. Everything was gone. The things in people’s homes weren’t even theirs anymore. Everything was just a pile of debris,” Kunnari said.

Kunnari said linemen travel often to help in emergency areas. This trip to Greenfield was not his first. He has helped with everything from ice storms to hurricane relief in Florida.

“One of the most rewarding things is seeing people get their power back to see people who even in this city, you’re working and doing things and you look and see the lights come back on. We all want to be the best. We want it to happen as quickly as we can because it’s very hard to do other things and other cleaning things to get back to normal without electricity. It’s a great opportunity to be able to help and then allow other people to come and help in other areas as well.”

Hulstein said an unintended benefit of assisting in Greenfield is that if there were ever a disaster similar to the one in Sioux Center, crews would be better prepared to respond and have a better idea of ​​what to expect.

“They want to use the skills they have to help others. They do this every day, but this is an opportunity to really respond to a significant event,” Hulstein said.

There were many there to lend a hand, but not everyone could do their part without the work of the referees. Kunnari said it was a close opportunity to gain more emergency response experience, and he will continue to remember and pray for the community members he spoke with.