By Kelly Sargent
I'm an National Public Radio fan; one of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis is Science Friday. When I popped in my earbuds Friday night, August 21, I was surprised to hear the derecho in Iowa featured and Iowa Public Radio reporter Kate Payne being interviewed about it. Kate describes the ways that victims of the derecho in Iowa, might be suffering more than past hurricane survivors, and having spent time in Florida covering hurricanes, she has a basis for comparison. I've attached a link to the podcast. It's worth a listen.
Dealing with the Aftermath of Iowa's Devastating Derecho
By Kelly Sargent
It felt like a hurricane, but it was on dry land.
Some news sources called it a category 4 inland hurricane, others referred to it as an F3 tornado, but meteorologist and Forbes senior science contributor, Marshall Shepherd, says the correct word is derecho. I’d never heard of it either.
A derecho is a line of intense, widespread, straight-line windstorms that moves across great distances with forces rivaling those of rotating hurricanes and tornadoes.
Whatever you call it, it was destructive. With sustained winds of 70 to 140 miles an hour, it cut a swath 1000 miles long from eastern Nebraska, through Iowa and into parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.
But the worst of it was right here in Iowa.
It came on so fast! The storm-alert sirens started blowing, but we couldn't figure out why. At that point it still looked like a regular day outside. Boy were we wrong.
It started to rain, but then it started to blow. The power was on and off three times in the space of about a minute at our house, and then it was out permanently. We took ourselves and the furry children to the basement to wait it out. It blew and blew and blew. Later we learned that Ankeny, where we live, had been hit by 100 mile an hour winds.
Erin’s privacy fence was decimated — 4” X 4” posts set in concrete snapped off like match sticks. At Rob’s, a big tree was toppled behind his house, but fortunately did no damage. When we walked outside at our house, it looked like a bomb had dropped.
Our behind-us neighbor had a row of seven, tall pine trees along the property line between his backyard, ours and our next door neighbor’s. Three of those trees were snapped in two. Our backyard looked like a bomb had gone off, but we were lucky: our garage, house and vehicles were all undamaged. Unfortunately for our next door neighbor, one of those downed pine trees impaled his garage in four places and took out our power line that traverses his back yard.
Below are four photos of our backyard in the aftermath. Below that are two pictures of our backyard neighbors.
Altogether some 800,000 households were without power across the Midwest, 330,000 were in Iowa, and of those nearly 101,000 were in Des Moines and suburbs, including Ankeny.
Rob was only out of power a day. Erin was without power four days. We were out from Monday until Friday night, five long days and nights, and a power surge fried my laptop and it’s backup drive.
Comparatively, though, we were spared. Cedar Rapids had sustained winds of 140 miles an hour, flipping over large RV homes, blowing semi trucks off the road and onto their sides, and damaging most structures at least to some extent, some severely. In Marion, six miles northeast of Cedar Rapids, 90% of the homes and buildings sustained damage. In Linn County, where both CR and Marion are located, 97% of households lost power, and as of today, August 21, 16,000 people are still without power there.
Ten million acres of corn and soybean were destroyed or damaged. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that the preliminary estimate of damage is nearly $4 billion.
We feel for our friends and neighbors. If there’s any way Tucker Law can help, call us or write to us via email.
We’ll be back in a few days with suggestions from Attorney General Tom Miller on how to avoid being scammed by storm chasers . . . sketchy tree removal and home repair contractors who suddenly materialize after disasters.
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