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Swift Storm Left Iowa in Tatters

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It is not unheard-of for Iowa to experience a tornado or a freak thunderstorm. It is also not unheard-of for my mother to exaggerate a story.

But as I flew into my hometown, Cedar Rapids, I could see streams of smoke billowing from farms and backyards, separated by rows of dead corn stalks. The derecho storm that hit the city and surrounding counties on Aug. 10 was devastating.

Trees are still protruding into people’s homes. Roughly 35 percent of the state’s corn has been destroyed. Buildings across the city are now uninhabitable. Power is gone. I drove down familiar roads once shrouded by century-old trees. Instead, sunlight beamed from every direction while residents stacked debris in piles nearly as high as their homes.

Twelve days after the storm, which sent people scrambling for chain saws and generators, many Iowans feel ignored by aid workers and the news media. The task ahead is enormous.


Debris burning on a farm in Norway, Iowa. A chair sat in a destroyed second-floor apartment in Cedar Rapids.

Marcus Womersely watched as a tree was removed from his roof in Cedar Rapids.

Trees covering Millette Schap’s backyard in Cedar Rapids.

A Cedar Rapids gas station offered limited service because of power outages.

Walls at a baseball stadium in Cedar Rapids collapsed under the winds.

Downed trees crowded a damaged cemetery in Cedar Rapids.

Community members handed out water and hot meals on Wednesday to residents still without water or power.

Alas Bahillib in his Cedar Rapids apartment. His family members all live in the same building, and were forced to stay in tents outside the complex for more than a week.

A Cedar Rapids road was lined with storm debris.

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