Midwest Derecho: Through The Eyes of Iowans
On August 10, 2020, a widespread line of destructive winds know as a derecho devastated neighborhoods, tore through crops, and snapped century old trees in half within seconds.
“The winds were loud in themselves,” said Raymond Siddell, Board President for Families Helping Families of Iowa and Cedar Rapids resident. “I think what startles you more is when you start to see the debris, and you hear it hit the building that you’re in.”
The storm system left behind a trail of damage for more than 750 miles from Iowa to Ohio within 14 hours.
“Trees through their bedrooms, their living rooms, their kitchens, people lost not only their house but their vehicles,” Siddell said. “The cleanup is…it’s just…it’s amazing how long it’s taking, I mean of course there’s a lot, but it still looks like a warzone today.”
Homes sustain major damage from the derecho on August 10, 2020, in Cedar Rapids, IA. PHOTO: Katharine Tharp
For those in its direct path, it was a worst nightmare scenario as some of the most powerful winds gusted up to 140 miles per hour.
NEW VIDEO: This power pole was no match for the strong winds in today's #derecho.
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) August 10, 2020
“It was the most terrified I have been, I know that now although that was not the feeling that I was operating with when I was in the storm,” described Cedar Rapids resident Akwi Nji, who was at home when the storm moved through her neighborhood.
Millions were left in the dark initially, with hundreds of thousands of power outages across Iowa alone.
“We had no power, we had no access to cell service, no access to any way to communicate to other people besides by foot, by bicycle, in some cases by car but that was tricky,” Nji said.
#Drecho Storm Summary.
Max customers out at one time: 1.4 million
Total customers Affected: Over 1.9 Million
759k in #Illinois
585k in #Iowa
283k in #Indiana
345k in other states
Source: https://t.co/8cAFt3zGJe pic.twitter.com/KUv6ZaZ7TD
— PowerOutage.us (@PowerOutage_us) August 13, 2020
Homeowners struggled to get back on their feet, with efforts to remove millions of pounds of debris. But based on the extent of damage to homes, some people were displaced.
“People now, they drive by and they think that house was unscathed, and they don’t realize that house has undergone tens and tens of thousands of dollars of damage,” Nji said. “To some degree, a lot of this damage, insurance won’t necessarily cover it at this point.”
Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Iowans still remain without power more than a week later, with resources slowly arriving across the state.
“We’ve been going around and offering things to people who still don’t have power,” said Keleen Warren from Swisher, IA, owner of True Heart Equine Enrichment Center. “I’ve had friends showering at my house and feeding them and there’s still just people who are outside with no resources like I have to offer my friends cause they don’t have people who can offer them anything. We pretty much need anyone and everyone who’s able to come help at this moment, we still need it.”
Business owners already faced with challenges from the pandemic have also been picking up the pieces, some able to reopen their doors while others continue to struggle.
“Even just in our area in Cedar Rapids we have restaurants shutting down that were little family Mom and Pop stores that can’t compete with the big chains anymore and suddenly it’s made them impossible to even forge with their current cliental that’s been keeping them going this whole time,” Warren said.
The Hawkeye State suffered substantial impacts to grain storage and crops as well, with millions of acres of corn and soybeans damaged or destroyed, setting back farmers for this season and for some, years to come.
“The downside of this whole scenario was we were looking at outstanding crop prospects, one of the best crops we’ve had in recent years,” said Jim Rebhuhn who works with Hertz Farm Management in Mt. Vernon, IA.
But while it will be a long road to recovery, many are thankful that the amount of storm related deaths & injuries remains low.
“There’s been a lot of resiliency I think within many of these communities,” Rebhuhn said. “They’ve all rolled up their sleeves and worked together, and there’s been a real sense of comradery.”
“It’s been amazing and even when you’re not expecting it,” Warren added. “And you pay it forward, it’s been bouncing right back.”
Interested in learning more about how you can assist those in need across Iowa? Here are some links with details on how you can donate, volunteer, or provide assistance to those impacted: