"Cell service and LTE is spotty or nonexistent. You can’t call 911... People with well water and no power are using buckets as toilets," one Iowa resident wrote of the storm's damage

By Joelle Goldstein
August 14, 2020 12:59 PM
Aftermath of derecho in Iowa
Andy Abeyta/The Gazette via AP

A group of thunderstorms and windstorms, known as a derecho, battered areas of Iowa this week, leaving thousands without power, millions of acres of crops destroyed and homes and businesses demolished.

The aggressive storm came barreling through the Midwest on Monday, extending a total of 700 miles from Nebraska to Indiana, with the majority of the devastation impacting Iowa, according to The Washington Post.

Several areas in the state, including Le Grand, Shellsburg, Atkins and Hiawatha, experienced hurricane-force winds exceeding 100 mph, the National Weather Service reported. Many other cities saw wind gusts reach 80-99 mph.

In Midway, just 10 miles north of Cedar Rapids, some of the fastest winds in the state were recorded at a high of 112 mph — a speed that is considered to be a category 3 hurricane.

At least 20 tornadoes were also reported to have swept through the area, in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service.

Aftermath from Iowa derecho
Andy Abeyta/The Gazette via AP

The storm's strong winds knocked down trees and power lines, ultimately trapping thousands of residents inside their homes and neighborhoods — most of which lost power — and preventing them from accessing living essentials.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 300,000 residents in Illinois and Iowa were without power, the Washington Post reported.

At least two people, including a 63-year-old man and a 73-year-old woman, were killed in the devastation, while many others suffered injuries, according to The New York Times.

Millions of crops, which provide $10 billion to Iowa's economy, were also damaged in the storms, officials confirmed.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced during a press conference that a farmer reached out to her after the storm and said an estimated 10 million acres, or 43 percent of Iowa's 2020 corn and soybean crop, were damaged or destroyed, according to RadioIowa.

"When I say 10 million acres, that is really an early estimate," Reynolds added in the press conference. "Some of the photos have just been devastating."

Aftermath of Iowa derecho
Liz Martin/The Gazette via AP

One Iowa resident told the Times that the cornfields now "look like pavement."

"The stalks are just flat to the ground," he told the outlet. "I don’t see how some farms are going to recover from losing an entire summer's harvest."

Reynolds issued disaster proclamations for 23 counties on Thursday and said those residents may be eligible for assistance with food replacement and temporary housing, especially as many continue to cope with the impacts of the coronavirus in the area, according to the Times.

In the wake of the storm, several Iowa residents have been speaking out about the damages and calling for the nation to provide aid.

Resident Ben Kaplan wrote on Medium Wednesday that "it's worse than you know" and detailed how "nearly every home has damage. Most big trees in the city fell. Most local businesses are closed. Every business is damaged. Most roads are impassable."

"Lines at gas stations outside of town with power were hours long. Chainsaws are sold out. Generators are sold out. Many gas stations sold out of gas," he continued. "Cell service and LTE is spotty or nonexistent. You can’t call 911."

Aftermath of Iowa derecho
Daniel Acker/Getty

"Gas leaks throughout the city meant people with gas stoves couldn’t boil water," Kaplan went on. "No internet means no debit cards or credit cards or ATMs. All banks are closed... People with well water and no power are using buckets as toilets."

"Most power lines and poles are down. Power lines are draped over garages, nestled in broken branches, strung five feet high over roads, laying across the street, across the sidewalk, they are everywhere," he added. "If they turned the power back on the city would burn. There is no trash pickup. There are one hundred thousand fridges of rotting food. There are raccoons."

Fellow Iowa resident Spencer Davis echoed his sentiments, writing on Instagram: "We had no warning. We didn’t even know something like this was possible. None of us here have EVER seen something like this."

"People are dying. There are semis lying all over the interstates and highways. Students have no idea when they will be starting school because most of the school buildings have significant damage," Davis continued. "Older buildings are completely leveled. We need more awareness on this because with awareness comes money and help."