American Red Cross Impact Story

Red Cross volunteer observes derecho damage

On August 10, 2020, an unprecedented storm tore through Iowa, leaving 10,000 Story County residents “a majority of the city” without power. Story County was one of the 20 counties under a disaster proclamation issued by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. After learning the storm was a derecho or land hurricane, Iowans came together to pick up the pieces. Two Red Cross volunteers offer reflections of the storm and the Red Cross response.

When the storm hit

Tom Hess is an amateur radio operator and storm spotter. He knew something bad was brewing. “From inside our house, I watched the storm approaching,” Hess said. “When it got really windy, my wife and I and the two cats went to the basement to shelter during the worst of the storm. After about 20 minutes, we were back upstairs to see trees down or severely broken.”

On the Ground

Cliff Haynes says, “From the beginning, reports from people on the ground, images from Facebook, the lack of communication, lack of media coverage didn’t get through to make people realize how severe the storm was” adding, that some came away counting their blessings, and worked really hard to help neighbors overcome their adversities.”

Lessons Learned

Looking back over the last six months, the derecho in Iowa was more than a collection of challenges that had to be met. It was also a reason to come together, despite the damage and COVID-19. Ultimately, our volunteers sheltered more than 2,500 people affected by the storm. In the days and weeks following August 10, volunteers distributed more than 98,000 meals and snacks and nearly 2,500 cases of water in the August heat.

As folks across the state worked to repair and rebuild, Red Cross volunteers distributed more than 18,500 relief supplies. “The most important thing is to realize just how hard Red Cross volunteers will work to serve those in need”, said Haynes. “They are the most compassionate group of people on earth. They will let almost nothing stop them from helping.”