Surviving Derecho – The Inland Hurricane Most People Didn’t Hear About

Storm-damaged grain bins at the Heartland Co-Op grain elevator are seen on Tuesday in Luther, Iowa.
Daniel Acker | Getty Images

It started out a pretty normal day on August 10, 2020. Due to COVID, I now work from home full-time and was in a meeting when suddenly I heard tornado sirens. Living in Iowa, typically when we hear sirens it’s not a big deal. In fact, storms are exciting to me and we usually all gather in the living room and watch the storm clouds roll in through the windows. My co-worker in the meeting I was in warned of a pretty big storm heading our way with really strong winds being reported and advised we end the call, so I did. It was 1 pm.

Next thing you know the lights start flickering, my monitor goes black. As I look out the window, the sky is orange, the wind is racing, and the front tree is bending like I’ve never seen before.

I gather my things from my office and head upstairs only to have my husband herd everyone back down into the basement. I start to get worried. Like I said, usually storms aren’t a big deal in Iowa. My husband explains that the winds are moving things, winds we’ve never seen before, and we need to get away from the windows.

We huddle up in the laundry room and close the door. Not long after I’m hearing debris hit the house over and over, pounding. It sounds like the roof has lifted off the home and the wind was just moving everything upstairs. A window in the basement breaks. I start to get really scared and started praying, out loud. To calm my mind, I start to sing praises to God, the only thing I could think of to do.

The storm lasted for what seemed like hours, but really only roughly an hour. As the winds die down, we gather ourselves upstairs only to find our roof still intact. Praise God! I was so excited and overjoyed.

We venture outside in the rain with the rest of our neighbors, asking if everyone is okay and looking at all the damage. The city looks like a war zone as if a huge bomb went off. Trees down everywhere, including my beautiful ash tree in my backyard.

The smell of natural gas hits my nose and I see a few houses down a home that was hit by a chicken coop roof which tore off the home’s siding and severed the natural gas line. Even though the gentleman called 911 immediately, it was literally hours – all-day before MidAmerican came out to fix the leak. I investigate the side of my home and sure enough, all of the siding that came off the gentleman’s home had blown into the side of my house and damaged my siding. The broken window came from a solar light cap and I had someone’s stroller laying in my yard.

A kid rides on his bike past my house and says that his trampoline is now in his swimming pool. After talking with neighbors and hearing stories of strange lightning (striking the same spot over and over), lightning going sideways, trees swirling, and trees literally hovering in the air before falling down, my family and I head inside. With no power and it starting to get late, we discussed the next steps in saving our food and in getting food to eat that night.

I live in a town 15 minutes from Cedar Rapids. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that Cedar Rapids had been hit too? I thought surely there had to be gas stations open there? My husband and I leave the kids and venture out to Cedar Rapids. Big mistake. The devastation I saw leaving town was horrifying. Power lines and trees down everywhere. Corn crops decimated and homes with roofs and huge holes in the side, insulation blown out. The city is black. Intersections turned into stop signs. We see if the Hyvee on Johnson Ave. is open. It is the only place we find open, barely. Running on a generator, the parking lot is full. As we park and walk in, a man stops us to say that the customer service line is shorter. We thank him and walk in. The store is packed, the lines massive like what you would see on Black Friday.

All the cold food and produce are wiped. No ice left. We grab bags of chips and snacks, some beer, and wait in line. My husband leaves me in line to go grab the last bag of charcoal. We may be grilling for a while. 45 minutes standing in line, we leave to go home. The man was right, the customer service line was shorter. We see teenagers in the parking lot of Hyvee, smoking and drinking beer like it’s the end of the world and laws no longer apply.

We get home. We eat by candlelight sandwiches and snacks. The fridge and freezer will last a few days. Cell phones aren’t working so we assume the cell towers were hit.

The next 6 days were a blur.

Day 2 and 3, my neighbors, family, and I all pitch in to help each other and clean up fallen trees, cut them up and drag them to the side of the road, rake yards of what appeared to be leaves cut up by razor blades, and clean up debris. No sign of national guard, no FEMA, no help. The days are filled with the sound of chain saws everywhere. My husband volunteers to do door-to-door check-ins with the city to see if people need anything.

Day 2, our ice packs are melting in our coolers so our neighbor drives to Tama to get us ice.

3 days into the blackout, we finally get a generator from my husband’s parents who got their power back on, saving our food. We hear stories of folks stealing generators so the town puts together a nightly squad to protect the city, not just from thieves, but also to make sure generators aren’t catching people’s homes on fire.

The nights are cool with open windows and I fall asleep to my wind chimes and the waterfall sound of the hum of generators outside. It wouldn’t rain again for several weeks after.

Day 4, I consolidate all cold items into one fridge. I then spend half the day cleaning the empty fridge and letting it air dry so it won’t mold. I finally get a hold of my mom on the phone who lives in Illinois and although the storm passed through there, she had no idea the extensive damage where I was at. That’s because this storm never got national attention. It wasn’t on the news. I don’t understand why.

Day 5 and 6 I go to my boss’s house in North Liberty to do laundry, fill my gas cans for the generator, and so the kids can take showers. Salvation Army shows up in my town to offer free meals to people.

Evenings become a routine of eating before dark, lighting the candles everywhere in the home, and taking evening walks through town with the dogs. Once the kids are in bed, my husband and I stargaze. With Cedar Rapids and our town being dark, the sky was brilliant with stars. I’ve never seen so many shooting stars and for the first time, in a long time, I admired the Milky Way. How beautiful it all was.

The evening of Day 6, around 6pm – I get home from North Liberty with loads of clean clothes. I have to lift up my garage door by hand as the wind damaged and bent this in. I see the garage lights on. I stand there for a minute and I say out loud, “the garage lights are on. Those aren’t supposed to be on.” I am dumbfounded. I look over at my daughter and I’m like, “Do we have power?” I run inside the house only to see all kinds of lights on because as you know we kept flicking the switch as habit only to be disappointed over and over. Once again, I am overjoyed and I run to hug the kids and we all get excited. Huge smiles on our faces. We celebrated with hot pizza in the oven that night.

I later came to find out that we had gusts of 125 MPH winds in the town I live in, second hardest hit county. SW Cedar Rapids got hit with 145 MPH winds. Just crazy.

Photo by Lindsey Mae from FreeImages

Throughout this whole experience, I learned a lot about myself. I did a lot of self-reflection. Something like this changes a person. You learn to not take things or people for granted. But most importantly, I reflected on that fear I felt when the storm hit. I was terrified. I’ve never been that scared in my life. Why? I knew God was in control and my kids weren’t scared the whole time because they knew. Why was I? Fear is gripping. Fear is a lack of trust in the unknown, in God. I thought I trusted God, but this showed me where I was lacking in that trust.

I now know to let go of my own thoughts when they conflict with the Word of God. I learned I need to cleave to God’s Word at times like these. Fear starts in the mind. We need to learn to hold fearful and negative thoughts captive and dismiss these as soon as they enter. Trust in God is the answer. It’s like when we pray and ask for things. We thank God for what we ask even before/if we don’t receive it, because we trust He hears us and answers.

Mark 11:24-25 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

When I was praying during the storm, I was praising God as well for saving my home, even though I really didn’t know the extent of the damage to my home. I assumed the worst. I truly believe He protected my home from further damage and He was with me.

We cannot allow the spirit of fear to control us, however. This is an affront to God and shows we do not trust Him. Fear does not come from God the Father, but peace, calm, and reassurance. He showed me mercy and grace when I was weak.

  • Isaiah 35:4. 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, with vengeance; with divine retribution, he will come to save you.”
  • John 14:27. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • Joshua 1:9. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
  • Matthew 6:34. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I strongly believe God is preparing the minds and hearts of His people Israel (not the nation but the olive tree Israel spoken by Paul in Romans 11:17 and those of us grafted in) – the Body of Christ for the coming days. The world is not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. We need to be prepared and we need to trust our Father in Heaven throughout it all. He will lead us and guide us if we allow Him to.

Another thing we need to think about is preparedness. This really came in handy with Derecho. We really didn’t need anything for a while, other than ice for coolers because we were prepared for the most part. Derecho did make me think about where we were not prepared however.

But events like this can happen at any time and how many of us are actually prepared for it? Or what if something worse? We didn’t own a generator before this storm, but this showed us how important it is to probably have one.

It is not lacking in trust to be prepared. God would not have us be ignorant, but watchful and prepared. It is common sense to be prepared, but not broke in doing so. We need to do everything within our means to be prepared and trust in God He will help us prepare, ask Him. Be sure to have food and water storage, light sources, and means to boil or cook food with. I personally like Sterno cans and you can get these on Amazon.

1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ..

Ezekiel 38:7 Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Proverbs 4:6-7 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

If it’s not evil Bill Gates telling us the second wave is going to be worse, we are also seeing inflation and food shortages on the rise. Derecho didn’t help any as many corn crops were decimated by the storm.

Take a look at this video by this Pastor warning us as well. I believe we need to be watchful, especially when men and women of God speak of visions. We need to listen.

DHS just posted an article on September 3rd titled “DHS Combats Potential Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack“. This is weeks before the election. Could this be what the Pastor in the video was talking about happening in November? How does anyone prepare for an EMP attack? We know the military is preparing the grid, but how do we civilians prepare for something like this?

I’d recommend buying a whole home EMP Shield and even one for a vehicle, in case you need to bug out. These are military grade if you buy from EMP Shield and certified. The video below explains EMP Shield, how it works, what is an EMP, etc. I strongly urge you to watch the video before you buy one to dispel any myths about EMPs. If you do decide to buy one, use this link to save $50 off (per device).

Thanks for reading my story and thoughts. I never want to go through anything like Derecho again. On the plus side, it really made me realize where I was lacking in my walk with God and my faith. It made me stronger. I enjoyed the star-filled nights and conversations with my family by candlelight. I enjoyed not having electronics, cell phones not working, and the sound of stillness.

If you don’t know God or Jesus as your Savior, I invite you to accept Christ as your personal Savior with a simple prayer. You cannot come to God the Father unless you come through Jesus Christ first. He is the Way and the Light. Keep praying and start reading the Bible to grow daily in Jesus and to take your first steps with God. He will never leave nor forsake you. We are His children.

Pray you well friends. And as always rise and shine.

1 Comment

  1. Covid 19, protest and now hurricane season are just the Most challenging time for all of us. What a way to live 2020. Anyways, I can relate to your experience with the hurricane. Early in August, we also got Isaias (I live in NY Westchester) as well and we were left with no power and cell service for 2 weeks and also no perishable food can be sold at our local grocery store as well. So like you we got some beers and chips. But I have to say that your experience are far worse than mine. 

    I agree I am now being more prepared than ever over the sequence of events from this year. I feel bad for those people who live in California as the fire is really bad this year as well. 

    I think it is best for a all of us to take it one day at a time and be grateful and live at the moment. 

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