The storm that ripped through Iowa last month was unlike any other. The people of Iowa had little to no time to prepare for one of the biggest storms of their lives.
Starting in South Dakota and sweeping through Ohio, the storm wreaked havoc with the most devastating part of it hitting central Iowa in cities such as Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha and Toddville.
Like an inland hurricane, the sustained straight-line winds lasted for almost an hour with speeds more than 100 mph in some places. This rare phenomenon was described as a derecho. But unlike a hurricane, it came without warning or time for preparation. Areas like the coasts, which receive hurricanes more often, are often given ample time to prepare for the storms.
That was not the case for people in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the surrounding areas. Jake Schulmeister, a resident of Independence, Iowa, a nearby town that was lightly affected by the storm, said, “Driving into Cedar Rapids looks like a warzone.”
The extent of the damage covered the entire city. There was not one person that was not affected in some way or another. It seemed as though every street was blocked by a fallen tree or power line. Houses were ripped apart or had trees smash through the roofs. People were scurrying everywhere, searching for help or resources.
Worst of all, the power was out everywhere. Nobody could make phone calls to tell others that they needed help or that they were alright. Streetlights were not working. Gas stations were closed. Everything was shut down.
Numerous people drove several hours to purchase generators just to keep their food from spoiling in their refrigerators. In some places, the power was out for over a week. In surrounding towns where gas was available, people were left to wait in lines that stretched for blocks in order to purchase fuel for their generators, chainsaws and vehicles.
Governor Kim Reynolds said an initial estimate indicated 10 million acres, or 4%, of Iowa’s corn and soybeans were damaged by the storm. Reynolds requested $3.9 billion in federal disaster aid, which President Trump approved within a day.
The devastation is immense. Thousands of homes are still in shambles as a result of the storm, and there had already been a shortage of materials because of the global pandemic. The derecho made it much worse for Iowans in need of resources. Winter will be here sooner than what it may take to rebuild commercial and residential buildings.
Tree removal services are backed up with work and requests. Nature dumps have closed because they are too full for anymore debris. The economy is also taking a toll from the storm on top of the pandemic.
The storm has drawn people closer to each other, though. Friends are helping friends, neighbors are helping neighbors and strangers are helping other strangers. Workers from other states such as Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas have been coming to help Iowa with relief efforts.
There are signs of hope. Cleanup has begun, streets have been cleared and powerlines are being restored.