The town of Doon is home to just over 500 people. Last month, the northwest Iowa community made national headlines for a train derailment that spilled 160,000 gallons of oil into the town’s floodwaters.
Floodwaters that people in town say, have never been higher.
In a month’s time, progress has been made, but there’s plenty of cleanup still in store.
June 22, 2018.
The day water flooded over Doon’s roads making many of them impassable.
“When the train derailment happened and also dealing with all the floodwater, our little town tripled in town for about two weeks,” said Dereck Van Der Brink.
Today, much of that water is washed away, and it appears business is back to normal for the Northwest Iowa town.
While the buzz may be gone, Dereck Van Der Brink is still flooded with memories of what’s being called the worst rain in Doon’s history.
“We have about 1,400 cars on our property, and about 300 of those were affected by flood water,” said Van Der Brink.
This is Van Der Brink’s car lot.
He owns Lem’s Auto, a Doon-based business that salvages parts from damaged cars that are stored here, in the junkyard.
“We know that we lay pretty low there, so we don’t have our high-end vehicles down there, but it’s still a substantial loss. $15,000 I would park it at roughly,” Van Der Brink said.
Cars drowning in water up to their hoods and lift gates.
There’s nothing Van Der Brink can do to salvage them.
He is moving on with his son Cole’s help.
He’ll deploy a boom into the water today, to check for oil from the spill nearly a mile down the road.
“We just re-stock and move on, there’s not much you can do other than just keep going,” said Van Der Brink.
And Van Der Brink isn’t the only one pushing forward.
I stopped by the Corner Cafe, a popular spot on the town’s Main Street to find out how those who live here are recovering from the tough times.
Lavezzorio: Is it a common meeting place for people?
“Yeah every morning, 9 o’clock on the dot,” said Blake Van Bemmell.
Doon’s residents band together here.
“It’s definitely your small-town-USA and people are really good, everyone knows everyone,” said Van Bemmell.
Van Bemmell is the town’s maintenance man.
Talk about someone who’s been on the front lines of the cleanup.
“Pretty much everything in town. From moving, to streets, to tree trimming, anything,” Van Bemmell said.
He shares a similar message: nothing you can do, but move forward.
“They’re doing the best they can and they got a lot of it cleaned up, and nothing you can do about it, you make the best of it,” said Van Bemmell.
One of the first people I met among the chaos on June 22 was the town’s mayor Tim Mantel.
“It was quite something. It was impressive to be Mayor of the town with something like this to see how people come out and back each other, it was great,” said Mantel.
The train derailment may take years to cleanup and Lem’s Auto may take months to go down, there’s one thing though, that makes Doon, Doon.
“And everyone looks out for everyone in this town. I were to think if anything real bad happened, everyone would come out,” Mantel said.
While the water recedes, Mantel is now flooded with faith as the town moves forward.
BNSF Railway will continue the cleanup for the next 12 to 18 months in Doon.
This weekend, the town celebrated “Doon Days”, an annual summer celebration, and Mayor Mantel says there was a lot to celebrate.