What to Do Now in the Aftermath of the 2020 Iowa Derecho

Armed with hurricane and EF-2 tornado force, violent winds straight out of a disaster movie roared through Cedar Rapids and the Iowa City corridor on Monday, August 10. The fallout was stunning, heartbreaking and incredibly costly.

“It’s unlike anything we’ve seen recently,” Mid-American Energy spokesperson Tina Hoffman told The Des Moines Register.

The monster storm, known as a derecho, stripped roofs of buildings and houses, sliced siding off the Cedar Rapids Ice Area and turning trees in to violate falling and blowing missiles. The winds in Marshalltown, Iowa hit 99 mph on the radar gun. In Hiawatha, Iowa, they topped 112 mph. Over 500,000 Iowans lost power, including over 300,000 who were dark for more than three days as the storm severed and ravaged the state’s electrical grid.

“It will be a number of days before we know the full impact of (the) storms, but one thing is for certain: Many of our neighbors have had their lives drastically impacted, whether it’s through injury or damage to their livelihoods,” Iowa gov. Kim Reynolds said.

The derecho’s massive scope made it one of the largest storms of its kind in recent U.S. weather history. Its radius covered 770 miles and blistered parts of nine states. In Iowa alone, an estimated 10 million acres of corn – one-third of the state’s crop — were blown down and thousands of grain bins destroyed with early estimates pegging the lost crop revenue at $3.4 billion. Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart called the lost the equivalent of “two years of crops.”

“You drive around, there’s nothing that’s not leaning or flat,” Corey Hillebo, a Slater, Iowa, farmer, told The Des Moines Register.

Many Iowa homeowners are unfortunately saying, “Holy Dechero!” in wake of the storm’s impact.

A dechero is best described as a landlocked hurricane. It is defined as a long-lived straight-line windstorm that is part of a powerful line of storms. They have the ability to produce hurricane force winds. On weather radars, the complex of the storm often is shaped as a bow or backward shaped C.

In simple terms, Monday’s dechero was no friend of Iowa home and business owners, who are still picking up wreckage and estimating the devastating damage left in its wake. Iowa insurance adjustors are reminding of all that time is of the essence when attempting to recover from a severe weather event.

“It’s one of the worst (storms) I’ve seen in my time in Iowa,” Chance McElhaney of the Iowa Insurance Division told KCCI-Davenport reporter Cynthia Fodor.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover part of the damage depending on your deductible. Agents recommend homeowners file as soon as possible.

“The faster you file your claim, the quicker you can financially recover,” said Dubuque commercial insurance agent Jill Campbell of Ludovissy and Associates, who has been assisting business owners with their recovery in Iowa’s Key City. “You don’t want to wait on filing. Waiting will make your financial recovery process longer. It is taking longer for companies to call back because of the large number of claims.”

Echoed McElhaney: “Whether it be a window that’s broken, whether it’s a roof that’s damaged, whether it be any other type of damage that you see, really the first step is contacting your insurance agent and getting the insurance part of the process started.”

Take pictures of the damage and carefully scout contractors for your home or business’ recovery mission. Be sure to get multiple estimates and check contractors’ credentials.

“Keep receipts until you are able to talk to your adjuster,” Campbell said.

Iowa’s Individual Assistance Grant Program is a tremendous resource for homeowners who need financial assistance. The IIAGP can be used for home repairs, car repairs, temporary housing and replacement of food and clothing items. The program provides up to $5,000 grants for households with incomes as high as 200 percent above the federal poverty level, or a maximum annual income of $43,440 for a family of three. Grant applications are available on the Iowa Department of Human Resources website. Applicants have 45 days to submit claims.

For there’s no time to wait, friends. Time is essential to fully recover from the great Iowa dechero of 2020, which has left a huge financial and economic hurt on the Hawkeye State that will be measured in the billions of dollars.

“The question that remains for all of us is, what happens in the next five to six weeks?” Kellogg, Iowa, farmer Roger Zylstra told The Register. “How much can we salvage?”

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