Sunday, August 16, 2020

When You Live in Iowa and a Hurricane Arrives on a Monday Afternoon...

I don't even know where to begin this post. Some of you may be aware of the bizarre and destructive weather we had in Iowa on Monday, August 11th. Known as a derecho, it was an inland hurricane. Iowa is a landlocked state, and we've always been super sure a hurricane would never touch us. Well, Monday that all changed. What we all thought was going to be a severe thunderstorm turned out to be straight-line winds clocked at 100-115 MPH for 45 minutes straight. Add in some rain, thunder and lightning. The aftermath is appalling and so heartbreaking I think my whole city of Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities are still in shock. When I called my insurance agent, I cried on the phone. She was the first person I'd talked to outside of this area since the storm. 

There is not one block, one house, one business, one apartment building, one park or street that is not damaged in some way in Cedar Rapids, which is 75 square miles. A population of approximately 130,000 people. We've been without power since Monday when the storm hit. Sirens went off, and most people had a chance to take cover for what we thought would be a quick storm. Many people were caught in cars, businesses, and out for lunch. Folks usually have days to prepare for a hurricane-we did not even have 10 minutes. 

For the first few days, there was no phone service; couldn't even call 911. Gas stations were closed; when a few did open, the lines to get gas for cars, chain saws, and generators were blocks long. My boyfriend and I drove 40 minutes south of CR to find a gas station. We borrowed a generator from a friend after his smaller, older generator fried his deep freezer. We have a freezer full of meat, cheese, and fish that we have to bag up and toss. Easily over $500 in food. Food we'd been steadily buying and freezing during the ongoing pandemic. 
You can't find a chainsaw, chains, oil for sale in Iowa. They're all gone, or people are price gouging online. The National Guard arrived a few nights ago to help with tree debris clean up. There are parts of Cedar Rapids that won't have power until Tuesday, 9 days after the derecho. I'm on day 7 with no power, as is my boyfriend. Luckily, water is working fine and we have water to drink, flushing toilets, and showers! 

Now our days and nights are filled with the sounds of chain saws, generators, and yes, sirens. Every day gets a little better. More and more power is being restored to parts of the city, along with more gas stations up and running. Grocery stores are open, too. There are even some restaurants that are operating. 

I've taken photos and they do not even begin to show the magnitude of the destruction. Our local newspaper said 50% of our tree canopy in Cedar Rapids is gone. We are known as a tree city; our city symbol is a tree. So many houses and businesses damaged by trees and wind. Block after block of tree debris along the streets, waiting for city crews to reach us. 

My library took a big hit, and had extensive water damage. The Marion Public Library building is not a place staff or patrons can return to--it is beyond repairing. I still can't wrap my head around that. We are moving forward, and already had a new building planned and will be breaking ground in October. Until that building is finished (2022), we will be operating out of other spaces, providing library services to our patrons. 

I will be taking a bit of a break from the blog while I work through this enormous life event. Iowans are strong, tough people, for sure. Giving and generous. However, we are all just a bit broken right now. Recovery will be months; school buildings were so damaged we have no idea when school will start, and what that will look like. Businesses that were just hanging on through the pandemic will probably close for good. Farmers lost so many corn crops it will create a ripple effect around the world. 

My family members are safe and doing well. My friends are okay, too. Some are dealing with a lot of damage to their homes; others are struggling with the additional stress this all brings to us. I can't say I've slept more than 4 hours a night this past week. My boyfriend has worked so hard all week; working himself to exhaustion. His belt needs more notches cause he's lost so much weight. But we will get through this, one day at a time. 

Here are some links to stories that may help give you perspective on where Iowa stands: 

https://www.thegazette.com   (our local newspaper)



Take care, stay safe. I will have updates! 

The Bookalicious Babe 💗💗💗


  1. Have always enjoyed your blog so please come back to it when able. I was born in Cedar Rapids.So very sorry to hear about this destruction. As a librarian myself, I cannot imagine the difficulty of offering services at this time. Hang in there. We Midwestern types are indeed tough.

    1. Thank you Gloria! We are mustering through, as Midwesterners and Iowans do!

  2. Gosh...have arrived here via Diane and am devastated by your news...so sorry. Hang in there and do what you have to and I look forward to seeing a post from you soon. In the meantime there's lots here to read already. Stay safe and take care.

    1. Thank you Nora for your kind words! I appreciate them so much. I'll be posting again soon. I love my blog so I definitely won't be going away!