PROJECT TORNADO: Iowans still recovering from August derecho

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 2:15 PM CDT
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Iowa (KTTC) -- August 10, 2020 came without much warning. In its 14 hour span, the multi state derecho started as a cluster of thunderstorms stretching from south east South Dakota, to Ohio. It traveled 770 miles across the Midwest and hit Iowa, hard.

“This went on for so long, and went through such a large area,” Iowa City resident Peter Damiano said.

It’s projected that the Iowa derecho was the most costly thunderstorm in modern United States history. It caused at least $7.5 billion in damage. It did $3.8 billion damage to the state’s agriculture industry alone.

“It was like, how are we ever going to deal with this and more forward,” he said.

Just 30 miles north of where Damiano lives, in Cedar Rapids, an even worse sight.

“That is what really took the brunt, was this path through Cedar Rapids,” Damiano said.

The powerful winds devastated millions of acres of farmland; crumpling and tossing grain bins, demolishing roofs and buckling buildings in its wake. It left some Iowans feeling lucky to be alive.

“We have hundreds of folks camping in their yards,” one man told reporters after the storm. “And we are trying to find them food and water and make sure that they are safe.”

Others with less damage were eager to help. One was a young boy who crafted baseball bats for recovery fundraising efforts.

“A ton of people having damage,” 12-year-old Tommy Rhomberg said. “I feel like it would help them rebuild.”

A stranger refurnished a trailer home for a single mother and her two sons.

“It’s definitely a dream come true, after everything that’s happen,” she said after walking into her new home.

Amongst all the chaos, there was also a sense of camaraderie.

“The neighborhood got together and the next day and a half we cleared up,” Damiano said. “There were big trees that were blocking both ends of our street. Cleared peoples yards, brought in lunch for people. It was sort of a great way of bringing the neighborhood together around something that was less than desirable.”

Recovery efforts in the Hawkeye state still aren’t over. One middle school in Toledo, Iowa is still unusable.

“We’ve made do. We’ve made it work,” one teacher said. “But, it will be nice when we don’t have to make it work anymore.”

One Facebook page called Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center, is still actively combining resources for those in need. The page has more than 66,000 members.

After everything the state and its residents have been through in the last year, they are still Iowa strong.

“It’s horrendous,” Damiano said. “And I think there’s a lot of people still recovering from that.”

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