August 10, 2020, started as a beautiful Monday in the middle of America with partly cloudy skies and a slight breeze. However, by the end of the day, many Midwesterners added a new weather term to their vocabulary – “derecho.” 

A derecho is defined as “a large fast-moving complex of thunderstorms with powerful straight-line winds that cause widespread destruction.” This unique weather event ripped across over 700 miles of the heartland. Wind gusts of 70-100+ mph were reported across central and eastern Iowa and peaking at 130 miles per hour in Cedar Rapids, according to the National Weather Service.

Hundreds of thousands of Iowans were left without power – including over 95% of all Linn County residents. Over 14 million acres of crops were flattened or saw extensive destruction, countless trees were blown over or lost branches, and thousands of homes and businesses were damaged. 

This historic event has dramatically changed the physical landscape of Iowa and the recovery will take years. ServiceMaster by Rice is proud to have emergency response teams immediately available to help local communities get back on their feet following such a tragic event.

Derecho History

The weather phenomenon of a derecho acquired its name from Gustavus Hinrichs in 1877 while he was a professor at the University of Iowa. That year, a strong storm spanned from South Dakota and across Iowa. The violent strikes of wind differentiated the weather pattern from a tornado, thus being coined a derecho. Many derecho events have been recorded across the country since 1877. 

The number of derechos in Iowa is relatively similar to the number of hurricanes in Florida each year. While many Iowans may have experienced a derecho in the past, the magnitude of the winds produced by this recent derecho is unmatched.

How The Derecho Affected Cedar Rapids

Widespread electrical outages

Over 95% of Linn County residents were without power following the derecho. The severe winds knocked down power lines leaving residents in the dark. A week after the storm, over 30,000 customers in Cedar Rapids alone were waiting for the lights to come back on. There are still roughly 10,000 residents and businesses without power at the time of this writing.

Damaged structures

Commercial, residential, and farming structures all saw significant damage. Over 1,000 housing units were deemed too damaged to occupy in Cedar Rapids alone. Co-ops in the derecho path saw grain bins crumpled and rendered unusable. The derecho also injured dozens of locals and tragically claimed the lives of three Iowans.

Flattened crops

Iowa’s farmers will face significant challenges to harvest flattened crops. An estimated 14 million acres of crops were affected by the derecho with 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans seeing the most severe impact. The crop and grain storage losses are expected to tally $3.7 billion. 

ServiceMaster by Rice Responds

ServiceMaster by Rice has 10 locations across the state of Iowa, many of which were in the derecho path. As soon as the storm moved into the Des Moines area, we started getting organized to take on a large increase in calls. We also started communication with both the Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids branches to let them know this storm was headed their way. The Cedar Rapids branch was inundated with a high volume of calls immediately after the storm moved through the area. We pulled resources from our other branches and also brought in ServiceMaster partners to help assist homeowners, businesses, and communities in recovering from this natural disaster.

Government Assistance

Derecho Assistance In Iowa

The Iowa Department of Human Services is offering grants to families affected by the storm. The grant is offered through the Iowa Individual Disaster Assistance Grant Program. To be eligible, a family’s annual income must be below 200% of the federal poverty line. 

You may fill out the grant application and submit online, return to your local Community Action Agency, or learn more by calling 1-877-347-5678.  

Federal Assistance

President Donald Trump visited Cedar Rapids on August 18th and approved a small portion of the assistance requested by Governor Kim Reynolds. At the moment, the approved federal assistance is mainly allocated for debris cleanup and for utilities. Governor Reynolds requested nearly $4 billion dollars of federal assistance, with $3.77 billion being requested for agriculture. On August 20, the president approved FEMA individual assistance for residents of Linn County.

Disaster Recovery with ServiceMaster by Rice

ServiceMaster by Rice is here for you in the midst of the chaos. Unfortunately, unpredictable and extraordinary weather events happen in the blink of an eye in the Midwest. Our goal is to help individuals and businesses get back on their feet as fast as possible when a natural disaster strikes in Iowa or Minnesota. Please give us a call or fill out a form online if you are in need of disaster recovery, water or flood damage, fire restoration, mold removal, and more.