Damage from derecho lingers after more than 2 weeks

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Seeing is believing.

Maybe that’s a cliche, but words and phrases often become cliched because they are true. Such is the case with the derecho, the widespread straight-line wind storm that hit parts of Iowa on August 10. Wind gusts of up to 140 mph swept across Iowa, destroying crops and trees, damaging houses and businesses. Thousands of Iowans lost electrical power for several days as crews worked overtime to repair storm damage.

That work is ongoing even now in many places, including Marshalltown, a central Iowa city of maybe 27,00 people. Two years ago, a tornado devastated the north side of Marshalltown. It destroyed the spire from the top of the courthouse, along with several homes, businesses, and downtown buildings. It left a path of destruction 1,200 yards wide and about nine miles long.

Damage from the derecho has been even worse, according to the Marshalltown residents I spoke with Tuesday, because the storm hit the entire city. Pickups and larger trucks even still are loaded down with trees, limbs, branches and other debris. I didn’t stop to take pictures, but I drove through neighborhoods in which both sides of streets are stacked with trees, limbs and branches waiting to be hauled away. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. There are houses that still have limbs and branches resting on roofs or sections of privacy fences that have been blown over.

My little plot of Iowa was unaffected by the derecho. We had some rain, but no real wind to speak of. It makes seeing the damage — 15 days after the storm — that much more of an eye opener.

There has been all kinds of debate over whether state and federal government officials acted fast enough or have done enough to help storm victims in Iowa. Meanwhile, thousands of other people have done what they can to help. After seeing the lingering damage, I’m ashamed for not having joined in the effort. If you are like me, our saving grace may be that it’s still not too late to help.

These Iowans will bounce back no matter how long it takes. In Marshalltown, at least, it’s going to take several weeks yet to clean up and finish repairs. I’m sure the same is true in Cedar Rapids and other cities in Iowa still grappling with storm damage.

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