2020 in the Quad Cities: Derecho’s impact still felt nearly five months later

Published: Jan. 1, 2021 at 6:20 PM CST
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(KWQC) - It was a storm unlike any other the Quad Cities had seen in years.

The storm, which produced, 100 mph winds, torrential rain, and hurricane-like conditions that hit the area on Aug. 10, quickly became known as the derecho.

“Essentially, a derecho is a line of severe thunderstorms that just doesn’t stop,” said TV6 Chief Meteorologist Erik Maitland. “It’s a line that gets bigger and more bowed out as it crosses the landscape, and to officially be a derecho, it has to go about 250 miles.”

The storm swept across the Midwest all the way from eastern Iowa to Pennsylvania.

“Certainly, we have covered storms and severe thunderstorms and bow echoes and derechos before but none to this magnitude,” Maitland said.

Many didn’t see it coming, but when it did, it left devastation in its track.

Buildings were destroyed, equipment was left unusable, crops flattened, and many were without power for days.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling the derecho one of 2020′s billion-dollar disasters.

As soon as winds died down, power companies like MidAmerican Energy Company got to work.

“It was just a herculean effort, it was every hand on deck inside our company, and then we had to call in help from about 20 states,” Geoff Greenwood, media relations manager of MidAmerican, said. “We had hundreds and hundreds of linemen come in from outside our state and hundreds of tree crews from outside our area as well. Because in some cases we couldn’t get to some of the damaged areas because trees were down on roads and lines, and those trees had to be taken care of before our crews could safely restore service.”

MidAmerican said about 125,000 customers in the Quad Cities Area reported power outages. Crews immediately started working around the clock to turn the lights back on.

“We did arguably a month’s week of work in just a week’s time,” Greenwood said. “It was just a mammoth, mammoth effort of people coming together.

“But there was just so much damage, and it was so widespread, and it was so extensive that it was something that we had never seen before.”

By Aug. 17, service was restored to almost all quad city MidAmerican customers. Restoring power was just the start of recovery efforts.

Farmers across the state were left with flattened fields, destroyed sheds, and thousands of dollars in damage.

“The horizon kind of changed because all your trees were flat, and several of your buildings were flat, and your grain bins were ruined,” Brad Dircks, a farmer in Lowden, Iowa, told TV6 in August. “Then you could look down the road, and your neighbor’s place was the same way.”

The effects of the derecho still affect farmers like Dircks today. His harvest season was slowed down because of flattened crops and downed grain elevators.

“We have been through storms before, but we have never been through one that ruins your buildings, you know the whole farmstead, that’s a new experience that we and nobody else wants to go through again,” Dircks said in a recent interview with TV6.

More rural areas were left especially devastated.

One Clarence, Iowa, resident told TV6, “It’s heartbreaking to see all the damage in our town.”

But, in the midst of destruction, Midwesterners came together to do what we do best - help our neighbors.

“You see that you maybe escaped without that type of problem, and then you look, and you see your neighbor in need, people reach out and help each other, said Dan Srp, a volunteer in Clinton. “It’s absolutely the culture of our community and absolutely the culture of the Midwest.”

Iowans helping Iowans to pick up the pieces of what a record-breaking storm left behind.

Visit TV6′s special storm recovery page to read more coverage.

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