There aren’t many weather events more fearsome than a derecho. But few seemed to notice the one that just hit the U.S. Midwest.
A derecho is a powerful, long line of thunderstorms that NOAA says “produce destruction similar to that of a tornado.” Such a storm system pummeled Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the surrounding region on Aug. 10. Winds hit speeds of some 110 mph — equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.
Yet you might not have noticed, amid the nationwide chaos sown by the Trump administration’s failure to quell a disease outbreak that’s taken at least 168,000 American lives (as of Aug.15), the continued depravity of racist policing, a relentlessly warming climate, the Trump administration manipulating the National Park Service, and the president’s candid attempts to hobble the U.S. Postal Service before Americans send in a deluge of election ballots during the worst pandemic in a century.
“Nearly every home has damage,” wrote Cedar Rapids resident Ben Kaplan earlier this week. “Most big trees in the city fell. Most local businesses are closed. Every business is damaged. Most roads are impassable.”
What’s more, some 10 billion acres of Iowa crops were damaged during the intense squall. “A staggering toll,” tweeted Steve Bowen, a meteorologist and risk analyst. Well over 160,000 “customers” (which implies way more people) lost power.
Though a derecho itself isn’t a consequence of a warming climate, the event underscores how vulnerable U.S. infrastructure is to storms that are dumping significantly more rain and hurricanes that are expected to grow more intense as the planet warms.
What follows is the grim scene. Iowa’s News Now has a list of ways to help or donate.
Hi from the disaster zone in Cedar Rapids. I spent the morning coordinating some food deliveries to neighbors in need. People without phones, without internet, cars trapped in garages, cannot call for help. We need more aid and we need it today and not Monday, @IAGovernor pic.twitter.com/43t82xSzXI
— Lyz Lenz (@lyzl) August 15, 2020
At Westdale apts in Cedar Rapids. This is the same complex where Cheryl Barnes lives, a diabetic women I met on Thursday. At that point it had been 2 days since she had insulin & she was running out of food, has no power, no car, no phone. Hoping to find her. #IowaDerecho #iowa pic.twitter.com/dMn8pa2qen
— Kate Payne (@hellokatepayne) August 15, 2020
Hard to understate the severity of #derecho damage at the Cedar Terrace apartment complex in SW Cedar Rapids. With nearly all homes destroyed, the mostly resettled refugee inhabitants have been sleeping outside, in their cars or at friends’ houses the past 4 nights. pic.twitter.com/jcrRh54kmm
— Isabella Murray (@ibellamurray) August 15, 2020
An inland hurricane tore through Iowa. Winds up to 100 mph leaving people injured and homeless, wreckage in its wake. You probably didn’t hear about it. – @lyzl, thank you for writing this, unbelievable that there has been virtually no coverage. https://t.co/o2TxBr1cwG
— Soraya Chemaly (@schemaly) August 15, 2020