The Iowa Storm

Some of you may have heard that Iowa took a big hit with storms Monday afternoon.  Where I live, we had rain that morning and are completely fine.  South of here, it’s an entirely different story.

Our son Buck, along with Lora and kids, live in the area where there is damage.  My sister and four of her kids live where the damage was worse.  Lora’s parents live a little further south of them and they had damage too.  To say it all is a mess is a huge understatement.  At this point, they don’t have electricity and don’t know when they might have electricity.  Power lines are down in the masses.  We had heard it was bad, but until we heard from Buck, we had no idea how bad.

Cell phone service was down so communicating was an issue that made helping really hard.

Monday evening after the storm Buck was able to call and we made plans for me to find a generator for him.  I went to Kalissa’s house and both Craig and Kalissa called and called to find a generator.  We finally found one at Tractor Supply in Rochester Minnesota which is just under two hours north of me.  Buck is two hours south of me.  There were none that we could find closer.  So we asked them to reserve it and I’d go in the morning and get it.  That’s when I thought of my sister and her family.  I checked on them and after some back and forth figured out that they needed generators.  She has five adult children and four of them needed generators….so now my hunt was to find FIVE generators.  I reserved the biggest one for us as Kramer had long ago badgered me about getting a generator and I always said, “why?”  UGH-I should have listened.  I knew he would have bought a bigger one.  I knew Kramer would have bought a more expensive one.  I remember at the time we talked, he thought he would spend $800 so that was what I tried to find for Buck.  My sister’s family was hoping to spend around $400 to $500…more or less something to save the refrigerators and freezers in their homes and hopefully at some point, get a shower.

I started out at 6am on Tuesday morning to try to find the five generators I needed.

I made to Tractor Supply shortly before they opened and the minute the door did open, I was in and looking for generators.  I got a big one for Buck.  I paid for it with the intention that down the road, it will be something I keep here for our family and whoever needs it, can use it.  I got one small one.  Other than that, they only had $700 ones.

The manager at this store was not very kind at all-rude in fact.  I ended up going the several blocks to Fleet Farm where I found three more.  At Fleet Farm, they were AWESOME!!  I asked where the generators were and they said, “Oh, you must be from Iowa.”

I took the three and there were about 5 more left.  I went and paid for them then went around to loading.  By the time I got there, the guys in the back said they were sold out of generators.  Oh my!!

When I was there I also bought gas cans as there is no way for people in the Cedar Rapids area to get gas…and they need gas for the generators.  With no electricity, the pumps won’t run.

So I started my trek back south.  It took so long as I had to stop and get gas for the truck and then fill all of the gas cans.  I stopped at the farm where Roger worked and got two diesel cans as Buck drives a diesel truck and he didn’t have enough gas to get anywhere to get gas…then to the bank to get cash for him as the ATMs don’t work either.

Then back on the road.  I got a half hour south of me and topped the tank on the truck knowing I couldn’t get gas south of me and didn’t know what was ahead.  I decided to order pizza in the next town ahead at the Caseys.  Without electricity, at Buck’s, I wondered what they might eat and thought pizza hot or cold might be a treat.  I got to the gas station to pick up the pizza and found this. 

See that LONG line of cars.  All were waiting to get to the gas station and there was no way I could get in.  I ended up driving on, then called Caseys and apologized telling them there was no way to get into the station to pick up the pizza.

As I kept traveling the gas station we always stop at had a huge line up too.  This wrapped around the rural store as people waited and waited for gas.  It was crazy.

I got into Cedar Rapids and my jaw dropped and stayed dropped.  It was devastating.  I travel down Collins road to get to my sister’s house.  It is the main big road through Cedar Rapids.  Not a stop worked.  It’s the biggest shopping area in Cedar Rapids.  There wasn’t a car in the parking lots.  Signs were down.  Trees were down.  Debris was everywhere.  So many of the houses along the road had trees on top of them.  The damage was everywhere.

My sister actually lives in Marion a suburb and as I pulled on to her street.  I was shocked.  It is a main road in and out of Marion and it was single lane traffic.  A roof had blown off a neighboring house and took out two power poles.  The poles were lying in the street.  24 hours had passed and no one was doing anything about it.  There were so many poles down that these two had zero significance.

My sister had many trees down.  They had already been doing a lot of clean up.

Luckily all of the houses of my sister and her children have minimal damage…all of their vehicles are fine.

We are so thankful.
From there it was off to Buck’s.  He’s another 1/2 hour south.

Buck had a few trees down but nothing serious.  I was treated to time with this boy…Scotty.

..and time with Lilly while Lora was busy.  Lucy happened to be sleeping when I snapped a couple of pictures.

I ended up staying at Buck’s longer than expected.  Karl went to Buck’s too only drove separately.  He was the heavy lifter for Buck.

Here’s Karl showing off the new generator I bought.

Buck was head over heels happy with me.  Unknown to me I got a generator that could run on both gasoline or propane.  He was tickled as he’s sure he’ll be able to find propane before gasoline.

I left Buck’s at 7pm and got home at 9:15pm.  I have Scotty and Lucy.  It’s hard to worry about them with no electricity and with things up in the air so I said I’d take them until things calmed down and they had electricity.

So…I have a new appreciation for all you grandma’s out there raising your grandchildren.  Hats off to you!!

I’m happy to help and happy to have them here.  In the meantime, Buck is out of work.  He can’t do his job with no electricity.  So he’s helping all of his friends and neighbors…and Lora’s family.  Buck is a guy known to have tools, equipment, a strong work ethic, and a strong back so people he knows are calling in some favor cards.

So in short, our family is really up in the air right now.  We’re all okay.  We’re all safe.  We know that is all that matters.  We’re all a little discombobulated though.  Karl will likely be helping Buck this weekend.  I’ll likely have Scotty and Lucy here for an extended period of time.  We’re all on call waiting for Buck to call so we can help get whatever he or our extended family need.

Somethings to note:
-the damage in Iowa affects 20 of 99 counties
-Kelli’s friend’s car was totaled and her town was told to not expect electricity for one to two weeks.  This is typical.
-in the Cedar Rapids area, one would be hard-pressed to find a home that doesn’t have a tree down or damage.  The town is home to 120,000 people including family and friends.
-as I drove home there were places where a mile’s worth of electric poles were down.
-acres and acres of Iowa farmland were completely damaged in the storm.
-grocery stores lost all of there items that were frozen and refrigerated as there was no power for over 12 hours which is their gauge on when to dispose of items.
-the damage is so widespread that it will likely be years and years before everything is repaired or taken care of.
-the storm is called a derecho.  It means there are miles and miles of destruction across a wide area.
-winds were straight line from 90-120 miles an hour

A local news anchor wrote this:
A house in Cedar Rapids is now truly a tree house. But it’s not charming or cool. It’s awful and sad. This tree, according to the neighbors, was 150+ years old. But this isn’t a story about a tree. This is what so many homes look like in Iowa, but unless you live here you likely haven’t a clue.

This is because the national news has largely ignored our disaster.
I’m a member of the media, so I understand the fire hose of news that is 2020. But on Monday we were hit with a storm system called a “derecho.” It’s like a tornado hit whole counties. Our meteorologist clocked wind speeds of 112 miles per hour. That’s like a category two hurricane. In Iowa.

We’ve experienced natural disasters before. During the flood of 2008 the National Guard was here, the President did a tour by sky, the future President did the same. FEMA came to town and people from other states sent help. None of that is happening so far here. And I’m getting worried none of that critical assistance is going to show. WHY?

Because when the national news doesn’t pay attention, neither do the decision-makers. But this derecho has damaged almost every property in a city of more than 130,000 people. And this disaster touched at least 20 counties in Iowa. The magnitude of this is wild.

I work in a newsroom where today an elderly woman called for help to find a shelter with power for her medical device. We don’t have shelter yet. People are begging me for information about where to find gas, how to contact with family members they can’t locate (communication lines are down), and how they can do something as simple as find hot food for their kids.

I have almost no answers.

During the flood of 2008 people were going door to door to check for the injured or trapped. We need that kind of help today but the town of Marion canceled their volunteer coordination due to unsafe conditions. It’s so bad here it’s not safe to help! This is going to be such a heavy lift and we cannot do it alone.

Two school districts that serve a combined 27,000 children have sustained damage to 30+ buildings. They don’t know when they will open. The power grid is so damaged more than 100,000 people have no idea when they’ll get electricity again. The suggestion is “have a plan” to not have power for days. It could be longer.

Spread the news of our disaster. You’re not complaining, you’re getting the kind of attention that results in action.”

I’ll keep you posted.  For now, don’t worry about us.  We’re doing okay.  If I miss a blog post, don’t worry.  The kids are likely just demanding some attention.

48 thoughts on “The Iowa Storm”

  1. Whoa! I did see this on FB. But reading about it from somewhere around there makes it more real. I’m so happy no one from your family was hurt and that you were mom, sister and grammy to the rescue!❤

  2. So glad to hear from you about the storm. Was worried about everyone as soon as the Weather Channel started covering it about noon that day. My area was only forecast to have a line of storms move through around 7 p.m. When they upgraded us 2 levels of severity and started talking about the derecho, I knew it could be bad. I remember the one the developed about 50 miles west of us in 2012 I think it was. My in-laws were without power for 3 days after that one.
    From Monday’s storm, a town west of us has quite a bit of damage and power outages. In the big city south of me, a woman was fatally injured when her mobile home blew over into a neighboring mobile home. When they pulled her out, still alive at that point, she was clutching her 5 year-old great grandson. He only had minor injuries, thankfully.
    Glad your family is okay – praying that all affected will have help & power soon.

  3. Thanks for your post. I’ve been watching various IA news, but your pictures of the lines at the gas stations tell a story I hadn’t thought of. I’ve heard from family that are still without power and others that are ok but had plenty of tree damage.

  4. So sad this terrible storm hit most of your family . So glad to hear everyone is Ok.You are a hero girl so proud of your clan.

  5. We get little news of any kind since we have no tv and internet signals are bad. I did copy and paste from your blog along with an article from Yahoo and posted it n FB.
    Prayers for everyone there.
    Love and prayers

  6. So sorry to learn about the storm. Glad you and your family are safe. Also you were lucky to get generators. They really come in handy in an emergency.

  7. Thank you for your report. Now we will better know how to pray for you and yours’. I sat here reading your story and shaking my head. Wow, wow, wow! Thank God none of your family was hurt. Thank God you were so fast thinking to get to the rescue of your family with generators and fuel. And best of all, you gave the gift of your time to your children to care for their little ones so they can carry on in peace, knowing their children are loved and cared for. God bless you and your hubby for ALL your efforts….and you did it with a smile. :-)

  8. SINGLER Phyllis

    WHOA. I had no idea and since we don’t. do TV, I just did not see this. You were a busy lady and what a job you did taking care of so many people…Bless you and hugs and prayers. So glad you. are all safe and sound

  9. Wow! I saw the article on the Weather Channel, but it really didn’t give details like you have. They said damage but this is so much more than that. I’m glad your family is ok and I hope power at least is restored very soon.

  10. You are amazing! Definitely the matriarch of your wonderful brood ;-) Taking care of everyone without being asked.

    God Bless you all and keep you safe.

  11. Jo – I’m glad your family is ok. What a mess to clean up but better than losing a loved one. My daughter lives near Solon. She’s without power also and being told it could be up to a week before it is fixed. So she brought us her 4 kids and 2 dogs. She borrowed our other daughter’s generator from their horse/camper trailer. Not a large one but enough she can keep power to her 2 refrigerators. A propane one would be great – she has to keep putting gas in this one. She’s a doctor in Cedar Rapids and they had to shut down their office – no power and a gas leak.

    Our 21 year old grandson from Maynard went to Cedar Rapids today and yesterday with his dad. They took several chainsaws and a manlift. They’ve been very busy helping clean up.

  12. We did some generator shopping yesterday too. Our son and his family live in Hampton, IL on the Mississippi. Their area got hit hard too and was without power and cell coverage was spotty, at best. He called asking for help in locating a generator. We live near Madison, WI and soon learned that there were no more generators here due to the need for them in Iowa. We found what we needed in Sun Prairie, WI, then drove toward Iowa, where Matt would meet us part-way.

    God was good to help us find what our son needed. I’m glad you were able to find what you needed too. Our prayers are with those who have lost much.

  13. You are a wonderful mother, sister, and aunt! Sorry for you families troubles but it sure makes a difference when family helps with our troubles.

  14. Oh my! I didn’t realize how wide spread or bad the damage is. Yes, if Iowa was California, Florida or New York, the news could not report enough on the storm. So glad your family is basically ok.

  15. Hi
    I have no word what I say to you. You and your family safe. You got trubble but you strong. Iam glad to your family is safe & ok. God bless you.

  16. thank-you for your update. I was wondering about you. I have a package ready for you but I will wait for a bit. I have been following the storm story through Off The Rail Quilt Shop in the middle of Iowa. A lovely shop. Take care.

  17. Glad all is as well as can be- and you were able to get them those generators. Been thru many intense mid west storms between Omaha and Kansas to Texas.
    I’m sure they are grateful to you especially.

  18. I just saw pictures of the damage tonight, along with the news article you included. So much damage! And when I read that no help was coming it really struck me. Usually power trucks from other areas are on the way before the storm is over. Is it the Covid? Or simply no way to get the news out with power, phones & Internet out. Or are the news people only interested in Covid & BLM. Hope some of the power companies & people from undamaged areas start moving in & helping out, Covid be damned. Your family is lucky to have you spending the day on the road finding them generators & fuel.

  19. We heard about the storm since my hubby is from Iowa but you are right that the national media is ignoring this story; makes me mad!!! Glad your family is ok! Can’t wait for this year to be over!

  20. I’m happy to hear y’all are safe. We heard about Iowa on our local Oklahoma City news. They are also covering OG&E electric crews traveling to help your state. Hopefully they will arrive and be of great help. Y’all are in our prayers!

  21. Jacomina de Regt

    We had a derecho in Northern Virginia some 10 years ago. It was indeed incredible the damage such a storm can do. At least two weeks without electricity for many and huge trees just toppled. Now I regularly drive past a small forest that must have had a derecho. All the trees are broken off at a certain height. It always reminds of our derecho and how I had “refuguees” living with me once I got my power back.
    Lots of bbq-ed meat, as the stores handed out their supplies which they could no longer keep cool or sell. Take care

  22. Theresa Leppert

    I am so glad you and your family are doing OK. You are in my prayers. You should be proud of your family. They help each other and everyone else. Theresa

  23. That is so sad that has happened. We were without power for 3 days but we were lucky dad had bought a kairsine heater that we used during the day & we had a gas stove so could cook on stove top & mom had the old perkalator coffee maker & she made all the neighbors coffee & called them up to bring thermasis for keeping the coffee hot. Dad had bought a propane lantern that we never used so he had to put it together still. Had some candles.ended up buying 2 more lanterns, 1 battery operated & a karosine one also. We still have all of that & we have used them over the yrs. Dad still wants a generator which would make us really good to go. We didn’t lose any food that time it was winter so thru food out in unheated garage in boxes & we were good. It was heavy wet snow in Nov. that was not suppose to stick..that was back in 1996.
    I feel for your family, glad they are all good. Will pray the power is back on quickly. And w this Corvid thing, its like pull your hair out frustrating. Prayers r w u.

  24. I’m so sorry that you were hit so hard in Iowa. What comes through in your post is that people come together to help each other out. That’s a beautiful spirit. I hope some of that rubs off on the rude guy from Tractor Supply! So nice that you could take the kids back with you!

  25. Thanks for the post on the Iowa storm. My father grew up in Cedar Rapids and the family farm is in Ely. Here in WA, I had not heard about the damage so now I’ll have to contact family to find out how they are. Interesting that you mentioned Marion. My father’s uncle was Marion. He was married to a woman named Marian. They lived in Marion. Because of that they ended up in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Take care.

  26. OMG. This is what we go through when a hurricane hits. In 1995, Hurricanes Erin and OPal were direct hits on our area. We bought a generator and that thing lasted 20 years until it died. Bought a new one last year just because. I pray everything gets cleaned up and people are safe. Losing electricity is the worst thing, we are so accustomed to it. You really went the extra mile to get all those generators. I’m surprised they didn’t limit your purchase to just one.

  27. Thank you for the update! I did hear of the terrible storms in Iowa, but not being a geography scholar, I had no clue where you were in relation. Sorry about Buck’s problems. Just pretend you are back in day-care mode and have fun with the Grands. Prayers coming your way, Hugs,

  28. Glad to hear that you and your family are okay. Did not hear much about the storm here in Wisconsin – but I don’t watch much news any more. You are wonderful to go driving and shopping for generators for the family. Hope power gets restored quickly.

  29. Susan the Farm Quilter

    I copied and posted what the newsman wrote and used one of your pictures of destruction on Facebook. Hoping to share just how awful the storm was and the results!! Hope Iowa gets the help they need quickly!! Perhaps this would be a place for people to send quilts like we did with the hurricane in the Carolinas and the fires in California!!

  30. My daughter is in Cedar Rapids. Her front enclosed porch was torn from the house. Lots of broken windows and trees down. They didn’t have enough gas to get anywhere and as you said, there was none to get. She was at least able to let me know they were safe. The grandkids went to our sons in Dubuque, but Jen stayed at the house. It’s hard to secure it at this point. By the time we thought about generators, there were none to be found. All of the things you wrote about, my family is living through with no generator, no way to charge phones, etc. To add insult to injury, she had just bought groceries over the weekend.

    At our house, we were fortunate. A few limbs down, but nothing serious. So thankful that everyone is fine.

  31. I am glad your family is okay! The picture of the long lines for gas reminds me of what my Gramma always said: If you do nothing about preparing for emergencies, make sure you never have less than 1/2 tank of gas! I wish I could get that through my (adult) children’s heads!

  32. My heart just hurts for all the people affected by this terrible storm. We went through Hurricane Michael almost 3 years ago and it was just devastating to our little town. We have barely recovered from that with many homes still having tarps on their roofs. I am so sorry for all these people but thankful you and your family were spared. We had a small generator but quickly upgraded to a larger one as the need was there for a long time. So glad you were able to help others. The article you printed says it all… media coverage, no help!! True here also. Althought FEMA was useless. They helped very few people. So sad!
    Advice to all, don’t depend on your government for aid at a time like this. Help each other! Be independent and prepared. God bless yall, Jo, and prayers for all!

  33. So shocking to read about this awful damage! You are an angel to run around getting generators and delivering them and then take your grandchildren for a couple of days. Keeping you all in my prayers.

  34. I lived in Iowa for 13 years, 8 years in Cedar Rapids. I am so surprised that this storm and damage hasn’t been on the news. Finally able to get texts from friends in Cedar Rapids. After the hurricane that hit Charlotte, NC many years ago I know what the Iowans are going through and it is horrible.

  35. This has just been awful. Glad you’re ok-we are too. We are in the quad cities and it’s 6:00 Thursday night and my daughter in Davenport still has no power. My 92 year old mother got hers late last night. I know that help is coming for everyone and will make a great story down the road. We are grateful that temps have stayed relatively decent. We’ve enjoyed the camaraderie of a good neighborhood with all helping.

  36. Judith Fairchild

    Jo I have family in and around Cedar Rapids and further south. My Sister in law has her grandchildren and their children plus a daughter who were affected. They are with her for the duration. Praying for all of you.

  37. Judith Fairchild

    P.s. saw some pictures of the damage to grain bins all pointing the same way. That’s so Bad. Thankful so few were hurt.

  38. My son, daughter-in-law and our 4 grandsons (soon to be 5 grandsons any day now) live in Cedar Rapids. Their electrical line was pulled off of their house and it will be 3 to 4 weeks before they get electricity. They are trying to get an electrician to at least call them back (but cell service is not good) so they can get on a list to get help. My son owns a small business delivering bread products to 5 grocery stores. The stores have been closed so no income coming in for a family of soon to be 7. He was thrilled to be able to deliver to three stores today as those stores were able to get electricity. He has to have gas in his truck for deliveries so spends lots of time in gas lines. They had lots of trees down in yard and are waiting for insurance adjuster to come to assess all the damage. We are just thankful they are all safe and we will be celebrating our new little grandsons arrival any day now. The 4 little boys are staying with their other grandparents until electricity can be restored. My husband and I live in Maquoketa. We had the same storm come through. Lots of damage in town but nothing like Cedar Rapids. We lost a large tree but it landed in our garden and not on our house so feel very fortunate. 2020 will be the year to remember.

    1. Renae…encourage him to sign up for unemployment to help compensate some of the lost wages. It maybe can help tide them over until things settle down to normal.

  39. Sandra Davidson

    Dear jo I am sorry to hear about storm I live in Canada and did here a bit about it and I wondered about you and family but I haven’t been on internet because I have been in hospital for a few days having tests.
    You are such a brave women.. I will pray for you and family. I think it is terrible you aren’t getting help you need I hope things are improving. Blessings to all Sandra

  40. We have 1 family in Ames, IA with a tree on their house but the other families just had windows blown out. Our son’s house and the house we are moving into in 2 weeks in the Quad Cities, Il area had minor damage to trees. My MIL in Carthage, IL had heavy rain and wind but no damage. We live just across the river from St. Louis, MO in Alton, Il and caught the tail end of this storm but had no damage. This was a huge storm as we are about 8 hours driving time from Ames. We were in the straight wind storm that hit the Quad Cities a few years back and were fortunate to get one of the last generators in town and were able to power our refrigerator and 2 of the neighbors from it. Fortunately, we still had the propane camping stove we bought after one of the hurricanes we went through in Virginia Beach, VA. I don’t care for wind. Hopefully, the “powers that be” have been able to assess the damage and come up with a plan. It takes a few days to get the electric and tree people from out of state in and helping with recovery. It will be a long recovery time since damage was so wide spread. Prayers for the entire area.

  41. Jessie Shifflett

    Thank you for posting about this, I live in Marion in an older tree-heavy neighborhood, which really is the majority of the area as you saw. We were trapped in our home, all streets blocked by mulitple downed trees. Our daughter was in summer camp at the elementary school, and unbeknownst to us, the school was also without power and was taking in water. I had a mother’s instinct to get to my daughter, so my husband and I crawled over and under trees walking all the way to the school in the lingering rain. I took a video of us walking back up our own block and how devestating it was. I literally cried walking around our neighborhood surveying all the damage. We ended up getting a genreator and gas chain saw from a family member in St Louis, and my Mom met him with as many gas cans to fill up as my 3 siblings and I could gather up around our homes. We went 4, almost 5 days without power. 2 of my siblings and my parents still do not have power. Miraculously we didn’t lose our $600 of beef we just bought, and our multiple trees did not land on our house. (although they came within feet) But while our property damage is stilll severe, we have been counting our many blessings as we slowly are getting out and are getting back in contact with, well, everyone. It was interesting having to ration the gas between our two cars which we limited to getting to the grocery store for ice when they came back online the next day. It was honestly a bit traumatizing. We had a large backup battery we used to power on the TV at news time, but when we turned on the news, there was none. All the stations had been knocked our of power. Our cell phones had power, but the cell towers were also down. No internet either. It’s almost like an EMP hit. I’m also dissappointed the national news stations have not reported on this. I’ve seen houses cut in half to the basement. I’ve seen sections of houses and cars crushed. I’m taking as many pictures as I can of this, and I’m going to make a book out of them.

    1. Jessie..I am so happy your family is okay but sad over the damage. If you need anything please let me know. I have family there that would help.

  42. It is just heartbreaking to see all this devastation. Marion is such a great little town. My grandfather grew up there and his father too. He helped build the Presbyterian church. We have many Jackson relatives buried in both cemeteries in town. Some day I hope to get back to visit this beautiful town Again.

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