Following the devastating derecho that hit Iowa, as well as other Midwestern states on August 10th, local communities are faced with plenty of challenges in terms of rebuilding. Governor Kim Reynolds issued disaster declarations for 27 counties within Iowa on August 14th, after the rare, powerful storm caused widespread damage to homes, businesses, and crops across the state.
The sudden and devastating derecho tore through the state of Iowa as well as some areas of neighboring states, and the communities affected by the powerful storm are now facing the struggle to rebuild their homes, livelihoods, and local services.
Katie Freeman, a local businesswoman, and owner of Freeman Furnishings said the storm left several areas devastated. She told us,
‘It has been two very long and hard weeks. We as a state feel alone and forgotten. Even though we are all doing our best to help each other, it is still hard...There are many people who cannot live in their homes and lost their vehicles. Stores ran out of food in the area. And the government has only given aid for government buildings damaged,’
Freeman, who has chainsaw expertise, shared that the locals have had little support in their clearing and rebuilding efforts:
‘In my direct area, there was a lot of tree damage. We have had to clear the trees on our own. The community has been coming together with whatever chainsaws we can find to start removing trees.’
Many Iowans are struggling to rebuild after the devastating impact of the powerful storm. In the efforts to rebuild, the skills and expertise of those in the construction industry will be integral. Businesses like Ottsen Oil Company, an oil and lubricant distribution company for trucks and industrial machinery are essential in helping ensure electricians and tree companies can do their part to restore power to their community.
Founded in 1933 amidst the Great Depression, their company culture knows a thing or two about how to make it work in tough times. So after the derecho left them without power, the owners, Tim and Suzi did everything they could to ensure their essential operations could continue running smoothly. We spoke to a representative of Ottsen Oil Company about the impact the derecho has had on their business as well as the local community in Cedar Rapids. The spokesperson told us,
‘On August 10th, 2020, our business, and many others were in the middle of the city’s devastation...Our office lost power for 9 days, and we know we are lucky as there are still some people without power…
We were able to help some non-local teams stay supplied by getting the word out about our products and services… With so many poles ripped from the ground, it is making more sense to rebuild power lines vs. attempt repairs in some places. We’re happy to help local and non-local crews stay running whether that’s through heavy-duty lubricants & greases for their trucks, cranes, and other equipment.’
Expressing their appreciation of the support both locally and from further afield, the spokesperson said, “Lines people and tree workers are coming from all around the country, and even Canada to help the city out. They’re working 24/7 basically to help rebuild power throughout the city.”
Business owners and members of the community have expressed their appreciation of the way the community has rallied around to help each other during this difficult time. However, Iowans question the lack of aid and support from the government and their local representatives and notice the lack of news coverage surrounding this devastating storm and the impact. One such resident includes 20-year-old Bailey Harmston, who created a TikTok video calling out the lack of news coverage. The video has since been viewed more than 2 million times.
bailey (@420bailsofhay) has created a short video on TikTok with music original sound. | we need ur help #iowa #iowastorm #nopower #nocrops
As Bailey points out in her video, Iowa is number one in the country for corn, soybean, pig and egg production and 50% of the state’s crops have been destroyed.
It’s a long road ahead for these communities to re-build amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and they could use all the help they can get. There are several ways you can help if you’d like to get involved:
IOWA DERECHO RELIEF CENTER
They’re keeping lists of resources, places most in need, and where resources are being deployed each day. This includes coordinating free meal and resource pickups as well as helping to get the word out about any community outreach. They are located at 50001 1st Ave SE 102A Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 and they can be reached at 319-432-9754.
The COVID-19 and derecho storm has upended the lives of many immigrants and refugees in Iowa with no clear end in sight. You can read more about the devastation on these communities here. You can help them to provide food, interpretation, and temporary housing to families in need. Donate here.
THE CATHERINE MCAULEY CENTER
They are coordinating food aid as well as the distribution of personal hygiene supplies to where they are needed most among refugee and immigrant communities in Cedar Rapids. Donate here.
IOWA DERECHO STORM RESOURCE PAGE FACEBOOK GROUP
The Iowa Giving Crew, a 501c3 not-for-profit, has partnered with the organizers of the Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Page group on Facebook to raise money and solicit donations for storm relief in Cedar Rapids.
UNITED WAY OF EAST CENTRAL IOWA
If you are able-bodied and can help with clean up or can work with equipment like chainsaws, you can find more information here.