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Winterset landfill struggles with lasting tornado damage

The South Central Iowa Landfill lost its scale in the March 5 tornado, which could take up to a year to replace.

WINTERSET, Iowa — What happens when the place you are supposed to bring storm debris is itself covered in storm debris? 

That's the problem the South Central Iowa Landfill is dealing with after the March 5 tornado in Madison County.

Landfills usually are not the prettiest places in the world, but adding tornado damage to the mix is a recipe for disaster.

Alan Utslar, a bulldozer operator for the South Central Iowa Landfill, said the damage was "a sight to be seen for sure. I've never witnessed anything like that in my lifetime."

The landfill's main office was leveled by the EF-4, and that's just the start of the problems.

"We have no idea where anything went. So we were without power, without water, without heat, no buildings to get into, no way to salvage our stuff. It was just very, very difficult," said Marcie Beeler, manager of the South Central Iowa Landfill.

With no office to use for coordinating debris drop-offs, the landfill has been operating out of a donated trailer. Multiple years' worth of paper records were lost in the storm. But one of the biggest losses: the large scales used to weigh loads being dropped off. 

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, it might take a while to replace.

"The worst news was that they thought it could be a year before we could get a scale, so that was pretty devastating news, because it's very difficult to try to estimate this and do the math," Beeler said.

Despite that loss, the landfill is still open for business and employees have gotten back into the swing of things.

"It was kind of rough for the first few days there, not gonna lie. But things have kind of slowed down now. We're getting by pretty good," Utslar said.

But that would not have been possible without some help from volunteers. From the donated trailer to free lunches on long days, there has been plenty of support when it mattered most.

"We're slowly but surely getting so we can get a little bit of stuff done," Beeler said.

The landfill's phone is currently out due to the destruction of the office. Beeler told Local 5 the best way to contact the landfill is through their website.

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