Those who covered Little Sioux tornado ten years ago recall the - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Those who covered Little Sioux tornado ten years ago recall the tragedy

(KTIV) -

"They went to camp for fun, excitement and leadership and wouldn't be coming home."

It started with a busy day of severe weather.

"You all of a sudden had several tornado warnings going on at once." said Ron Demers, Storm Team 4 Chief Meteorologist.

That included a storm in Monona County around 6:30 PM.

"We hear this scanner call for a tornado that struck the Boy Scout camp and they called for mass casualties. We all kind of stood there and looked at each other because I don't think I had honestly heard that except for it being a drill." said Kristie VerMulm, former KTIV anchor.

Reporters were sent to the scene while coverage of the severe weather continued.

Information continued to come in from the scene and it was all bad news.

"There was an alert that came across that said there were four dead. And I printed it out and I ran it to Ron who was live on the air and I handed it to him." said VerMulm.

"I remember being on the air live as I read this. I remember taking a huge breath and thinking 'oh my gosh'." said Demers. "You know what these storms are capable of doing, but when you actually see it happening and hear of it happening, it takes your breath away honestly."

As word of the tragedy spread the citizens of Siouxland went into action to help those affected however they could.

"It actually reminded me of the 232 disaster in 1989 when there were lines around the blood bank because people wanted to help out. They wanted to make a difference. So people actually left their homes at night, hopped in their cars and drove to the blood bank." said VerMulm.

Emergency crews worked feverishly to bypass the many downed trees to get into the camp.

Also part of that effort were the scouts themselves.

"They do this disaster drill the day before and then the very next day they are using those skills on their friends." said VerMulm. "No kid should have to see that or experience that."

Work at the camp continued through the night and into the next day.

"The second I got into the newsroom I geared up and we took off for Little Sioux not knowing the full extent of the damage." said Travis Hoffer, Chief Photographer.

Access to the camp was limited due to the massive amount of debris still present.

"They said to all of the photographers that were around, 'okay guys, jump in the back of the truck, we're gonna drive in. You've got five to ten minutes to get your video.'" said Hoffer.

What was seen during that ride was surreal.

"It was a very solemn scene. When you go in and there's tree trunks and stuff ripped out - and these things are almost as big around as Volkswagons." said Hoffer. "But the thing that really struck me was how quiet it was, almost an uncomfortable calm."

The catastrophe led to policy changes.

"Now when you look at a camp that you want to send your kids to, more than likely there is now a tornado safe room or facility in that camp." said VerMulm.

It also left a personal impact on all those who covered it.

From the former scout who was on the scene...

"Here was these teenage kids doing the same things that I would do. We had come across some storms and unfortunately this 
was one where not everyone was able to go home. And that affects you." said Hoffer. those who warned others about the storm.

"It kind of gave me a different approach after hearing how that day went down and thinking, 'can I do anything different to make this better for people or to keep them more safe?' I think it was a learning situation for everyone including me." said Demers.

And a reminder to keep things in perspective.

"Whether you have control over it or whether you don't have control over it, your life can change in an instant. These families that went through this process, the emergency responders that went through this process, they witnessed that firsthand. So I like to say I'm one of those people that doesn't take things for granted." said VerMulm.

All from a moment that turned many people's worlds upside down and, ten years later, is still having a huge effect.

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