Killer storm leaves hundreds of thousands of Midwesterners without power
Packing winds up to 100 mph, the derecho damaged up to one-third of Iowa's corn crop, governor says
DES MOINES, Iowa (WKBT) — Hundreds of thousands of Midwestern residents were struggling to cope without electricity Tuesday evening in the aftermath of a deadly storm that raked the region with straight-line winds up to 100 mph.
The storm, which traveled nearly 800 miles from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois, killed two people and injured dozens of others, tore roofs off of homes and buildings and blew vehicles off roads.
A 63-year-old bicyclist died after when a large fell on him on a bike trail outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, according to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. Thomas Rowland of Solon, Iowa, suffered extensive injuries and died at the scene.
Early estimates indicate that the storm, known as a derecho, damaged 10 million acres in Iowa, the nation’s top corn-producing state, said Gov. Kim Reynolds. That is roughly a third of the 31 million acres of land used for crops in the state.
The most significant damage is to the corn crop, which is in the advanced stages of development nearly a month away from harvest, Reynolds said.
A farmer told her “this was the worst wind damage to crops and farm buildings that he has ever seen across the state in such a wide area,” Reynolds said.
Satellite imagery shows extensive crop damage through about one-third of the center of the state.
“It’s incredibly devastating to see what’s happening to crops and to structures all across the storm path,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said.
Tens of millions of bushels worth of commercial grain storage and millions of bushels of on-farm grain storage were damaged or destroyed, Naig said.
Roger Zylstra, who has farmed in central Iowa near Kellogg since 1980, said four of his hog barns lost their roofs, two of his machine sheds suffered significant damage and many of his corn acres were destroyed.
Zylstra, 69, said crop insurance will help, but that the financial hit will be devastating for many farmers.
“The question remains for all of us is, what happens in the next five or six weeks? How much can we salvage out of these fields?” Zylstra said. “I know that some people won’t survive this. But there’s a fair number of people that will figure out how to hang in there, and we’ll keep doing what we do.”
The high winds continued to damage crops as the storm swept into northwestern Illinois, but the wind had weakened somewhat by that point.
Information about the severity of the damage was still being gathered Tuesday, said an Illinois Farm Bureau representative.
The storm left downed trees and power lines that blocked roads and streets in Chicago and its suburbs. After leaving Chicago, the most potent part of the storm system moved over north-central Indiana.
In Fort Wayne, Ind., Isabel Atencio died at a hospital after firefighters pulled her from debris inside her mobile home, which high winds had rolled onto its side Monday night, officials said.
Firefighters found the 73-year-old woman under debris inside her toppled trailer and discovered that she was clutching a 5-year-old boy believed to be her grandson, said Adam O’Connor, deputy chief of the Fort Wayne Fire Department. The boy had minor injuries.
“It’s awful. I was thinking about that all last night,” O’Çonnor said.
A derecho is not quite a hurricane. It has no eye, and its winds come across in a line. But the damage it is likely to do spread over such a large area is more like an inland hurricane than a quick more powerful tornado, according to Patrick Marsh, science support chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Utility officials in Iowa said it will likely take several days to restore power to everyone. Nearly 340,000 Iowa customers of MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy remained without power Tuesday afternoon. Another 33,000 in the Illinois Quad Cities region also lacked power.
Power and Internet outages were widespread in Iowa’s three largest metropolitan areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. The power outages were so extensive that, at one point Monday, 97% of households in Linn County, which includes Cedar Rapids, were in the dark, Reynolds said.
Mediacom spokesman Thomas Larsen said Tuesday that roughly 340,000 customers are without Internet service in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor of eastern Iowa was particularly hard hit because its fiber ring was cut in multiple locations, Larsen said.
Some customers will get their service back when their power is restored, while others will need additional repairs.
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