The Derecho Storm – A Week After

A badly damaged barn near Martelle, Iowa in extreme southwest Jones County.


Hi and welcome to the blog.  It’s been a crazy week after that huge derecho storm.  Governor Reynolds called this part of Iowa a disaster.  On Tuesday, Donald Trump was here and made it a federal disaster area.  That will help open more doors to getting things back to normal.  Despite the sadness, loss, etc.  learning about this type of storm was, as Spock puts it, “fascinating”.


Professor Hinrichs of the University of Iowa


So what is a “derecho” storm?  The term “derecho” (based on the Spanish word for “straight” or “right” and pronounced “DEH-ray-cho”) was used by meteorologist Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs to describe a similar storm in 1877.  Hinrichs was a University of Iowa professor.  This type of weather event differs from a hurricane or tornado because the extremely strong winds are along a straight line rather than cyclonic.  To be called a derecho, the winds must be sustained at 60 MPH or higher, reach occasional gusts of 75 MPH, and do so for 250 miles.  This one was all of that a lot and a heck of a lot more.

The derecho we experienced last week was incredibly powerful.  Here are some facts:

  •  In nearby Cedar Rapids, wind gusts reached an estimated 140 mile-per-hour peak in the city
  •  With this storm, wind velocities sustained the equivalent of a Cat 3 hurricane or an EF2 tornado and with little warning.
  •  As opposed to a tornado which might be a mile across, this storm was 40 miles wide and went for 1000 miles
  •  1/3 of Iowa’s corn crop – 13 million acres – was badly damaged
  •  3 people in Cedar Rapids were killed, many more injured
  •  Over 200,000 people were without power – some still do not have electricity 10 days later


One of the slower periods. The line was around the building… and often there were five to ten more cars in line!


Work was rough last week.  Because of a lack of electricity, people flocked by the thousands from Linn County (Cedar Rapids) and loaded up on gasoline, food, and fast food.  Lines to get gas were up to a half mile long and took several hours.  During the day, the convenience stores kept running out of fuel.  I topped off at 4AM and there was no line.  🙂

The restaurant rush was epic and never ended from open until close.  I worked night and day and put in way more hours than normal.  It was brutal.  The drive-thru line was out to the street and at one point, held up traffic at the stop light.  Most of the time it was slightly longer than the picture above by a half dozen cars.  We had to lock the lobby because so many people were flocking inside that it was overwhelming, not to mention there was concern about the Covid 19 rules.  Last week went by quickly…  I know I rolled 600+ breakfast burritos during part of that time!  (Dang, they are so good!)  Most people were nice.  Some weren’t.  But they were ordinary folks who were also stressed out.


Rest in Peace, buddy Heinz B. (I used to work with him in the 80s and 90s). This RV was flipped over on his old property south of Anamosa.


Things are starting to calm down at work as the power in Cedar Rapids comes back on.  Many thousands of folks had lost everything in their freezers and adding insult to injury, the restaurants there were closed.  My comrades and I cooked, and cooked, and cooked.  When co-workers complained I said “Heck, we’re getting a workout.  If we can handle this, we can handle anything!”



That photo above is so sad.  It’s a smashed grain bin not more than a few hundred feet from buddy Steve’s sister’s house.  It was a brand new grain bin… just one of thousands of structures destroyed.  I believe the news said 8200 homes in Cedar Rapids were severely damaged.



My home base was damaged pretty good.  A bunch of roofing was torn off and the water damage sucks.  Trying to protect the roof was the biggest challenge.  On Facebook there was a guy offering to help but when I did a Google search, I found that he’d had a background including running off from a work release program!   No thanks!  Rather, I hired Justin, a friend I once worked with.  He did an awesome job putting tarps on the roof.  They are secured by a lot of bricks.  All told, the damage was approaching 40 feet of the 75 foot roof length!


Justin hard at work!


It’s difficult to say what will happen with with the home base.  The insurance company called and the lady was as friendly as a canker sore, advising to put up tarps and call a mitigation company to cut out the drywall in the home.  No companies even called back for days and they demanded cash up front…  Oh well.  There are a lot of scenarios that might play out including having to take the insurance money and scrap the home if the depreciated settlement won’t pay the repairs.  Only time will tell.

But in the midst of the chaos, there sometimes is a chance to do something kind.  I was exiting work and a little old lady wanted to walk in and buy a couple of senior coffees.  The drive-thru line was crazy long.  It would have been so easy to say no with the lobby being closed.  But remembering that I had employee access, I ran back in and paid for her two senior cups of coffee.  I was reminded that you don’t always know what the other person’s circumstances are.  She tried to pay me and I informed her they were on me.  You would have thought that her coffee was liquid gold.  She said “God bless you!”  When I got back to the van, I melted down because despite being stressed out I had been given the opportunity to make someone’s day a little happier.  Kindness is never wasted.   That gave me the motivation to work harder than ever to get things as normal as possible.

Mister Duke enjoying a bite in the unused home office.


For now the working-from-home thing is on-hold; I’ll be at the fast food place for some time to come.  There is a promotion in the works and it means I will have better pay with more desk-type duties.  The progress on the “work-from-home” room has been worth it although right now it’s just a glorified “man cave”… and a retreat for the fur pals.


I see birds in the carport!


For now, that’s about it.  Once things stabilize (and cool down), I’m planning a little vacation in September to do some trout fishing.  The nights are cooling off here but it’s still too hot to take the tortie brat (Jenny) camping.  She’s content to sit on top of the solar panel and watch the bunnies and birds.

Take care and thanks for visiting!  Safe and happy camping!

All is quiet again in Grant Wood Country


Brad and Jenny and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

 501 total views,  1 views today

Bookmark the permalink.

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

6 Responses to The Derecho Storm – A Week After

  1. Debby Hoots says:

    Prayers for you ❤️

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Debby. Despite all, I am still having a good 2020. Whatever happens, keeping Duke and Jenny safe and happy with me is priority one. The little kitty is sitting on my chest at the moment watching Star Trek and waiting for her stroller ride. 🙂 Take good care!

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Wow, I was not familiar with a derecho storm. The description is horrifying and I am so thankful that you and your kitties are all right. You always seem to have a great attitude, but it would be such a shame to have to scrap the home base. Could you go back to van life? It might be tricky with two cats. Congrats on the upcoming promotion at work. It’s good to be acknowledged and rewarded for your hard work. I hope you do get to go camping. I am taking on the responsibility of caring for a relative, so I don’t think that I will get out at all this season. Being able to help someone is a blessing in and of itself, so I will be OK. More time to plan for next summer, I guess. You didn’t mention your foot. Doing better? Take care!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi and thanks for the note! I am taking one day at a time and waiting to see what will happen with the insurance company and the home base. There’s been so much going on. My back is okay but the left rotator cuff keeps cracking and going out. I dropped a tray (6 bags of muffins) on the floor today. No harm done… just more work. Thankfully the foot has all but healed up. It was a scary looking wound. The wound center at the hospital said if I would have waited it could have turned into gangrene. It’s good to get to it early. Gangrene killed my friend’s son a few weeks ago.

      I am really happy the way things are going at work. It’s calming down after the storm fallout. They really upped the pay and it’s only .5 miles from home… and the new duties will be even more fun. In the meantime, there are plenty of hours. I have to do a couple split shifts tomorrow to help with the peak periods… $$$ comes in handy! Take care! — VT

  3. Jo Harmon says:

    I have seen the damage on the news it’s awful. I hope once things calm down you will get somewhere with the ins. company. If not take it to the news media. No need for them to get nasty with people who have suffered damages and who pay there premiums. I’m sure her job is stressful right now but that IS her job. Your a such a great guy and always ready to help your fellow humans and critters. I have a great deal of respect for you Brad. Stay safe and well

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! I should hear something in early September. Thanks for the kind words about the insurance company. I hope they will do the right thing. I’ve been working day and night (literally) picking up extra hours… I’m off for the next two days and some fish might end up in the cooler. That’s the plan! And, of course, camping!! Take care! — VT