August 12, 2020 11:40 AM   Subscribe

More than 600,000 people remain without power across Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana after a Derecho brought hurricane force winds to a large swath of the midwest. Wind speeds reaching 112 MPH were measured near Cedar Rapids, IA.

Many areas are expected to be without power for up to a week as crews work to clear downed trees and repair power lines.

Two deaths have been reported and more than 10 Million acres of crop are expected to be lost.
posted by Quack (66 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Mixed up the power map links:
posted by Quack at 11:43 AM on August 12, 2020

I was supposed to return home to Eastern Iowa today and postponed until this weekend after consulting with various friends and neighbors. My house appears to be ok, but the power is out and not expected to come on for possibly a couple of days, and we won't have internet until sometime after that. Last I heard, the closest big street was still shut down, and cell service is spotty. It sounds pretty bad.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:54 AM on August 12, 2020

This was one crazy storm. I'm in Chicago: it was muggy at 2pm, cloudy at 3pm, the end of the fucking world at 4pm, sparkling sunshine at 5pm. Here's some photos I took around my neighborhood in the aftermath.

One of the seven Chicago-area tornados(!!!) touched down in my coworker's back alley. He's fine but he'll be without power for the rest of the week.
posted by theodolite at 11:56 AM on August 12, 2020 [12 favorites]

I got a message on my phone to hide in the basement because a tornado was coming to Evanston (IL)! I got the message after the storm passed, and we were lucky it didn't come this way. I believe the tornado did some nasty damage in Roger's Park.
posted by Glinn at 11:56 AM on August 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

It was just garden variety derecho in my Chicago neighborhood. Saying “hey, at least it’s not a tornado!” is small comfort when the wind speed still qualifies for the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

We weren’t even in the actual legit tornado track unlike Rogers Park to the northeast Regardless, there was a downed street lamp right in front of my house, brought down by an enormous chunk of tree which also crushed the roof of a parked car. I have no idea how many stricken trees are ultimately going to need removal, but right now, at least they have gotten the debris off the streets onto the lawns.

And yet, I was FOOLISHLY in my car, only a mile away, when the storm hit. FOOLISH. From there, it felt like just a pretty intense and windy storm, but not crazy. I didn’t feel threatened, and was shocked when I got to my neighborhood and had to detour multiple times due to completely impassable downed trees.

So very 2020. Even when it doesn’t seem that bad, it probably was pretty bad and you were just lucky.
posted by notoriety public at 11:58 AM on August 12, 2020 [23 favorites]

Whoa, seven tornados in the area! I always thought because the housing was pretty dense that a tornado was unlikely but everything is weird now.
posted by Glinn at 11:58 AM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I lost power to a derecho for a couple of days several years ago. The storm itself lasted about fifteen minutes. Just one massive, sustained gust of wind. Nuts.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:02 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

We missed the worst of it where I am -- a few miles south there was a whole-ass tornado -- but I have been in two tornadoes where I actually saw the funnel because I didn't have shelter/couldn't get to it in time, and this was TOTALLY AS SCARY AS THAT. Even not being in the worst of it. The air was dead still and hanging heavy with humidity one instant, and the next instant the wind was blowing seventy miles an hour and my neighbor's basketball hoop went right over (it's stood up to some big storms) and my mailbox decided to take a vacation down the street. Other neighbors lost a HUGE tree and a large portion of their roof (to the tree that moved in to their attic). We lost power for a few hours but were restored fairly quickly, and we'd brought everything indoors (except the damn mailbox) so we've mostly just got a lot of sticks and branches to clean up.

One of my kids attends a summer program (via zoom), and it was all cancelled yesterday because most of the teachers didn't have power. Actually, parts of the Chicago area don't have water, and his teacher didn't have her water restored until this morning. UGGGGGGH.

Our power went down pretty much right away -- I'd say within seconds after the wind blew in -- and our cell service went down about 2 minutes after that. (Someone said the tower was struck by lightning, which seems legit, and there was a lot of lightning.) So I'm standing in my house with no electricity, no data, no cell service, and I can get about 1 in 5 texts to go through, going, "Oh crap. This seems like it would be a really good time to own a battery-powered radio." Somehow it failed to occur to me I might lose cell service and wireless data at the same time as electricity. Anyway, weather radio has been ordered.

I also have a file full of emergency contacts on my cloud drive for ease of access when filling out things like school forms, but again, it failed to occur to me I'd lose cell service and electricity at the same time, so I had to text some people asking them to contact other people for me because for whatever reason I never put their numbers in my phone but just dialed them off my emergency contacts file, and sporadic text was all I had.

They measured 112 mph STRAIGHT-LINE winds at the Cedar Rapids airport, which is NUTS. Also if anyone's found a good video of the Rodgers Park tornado-turned-waterspout (as it moved onto Lake Michigan), post it, I've only seen the really wobbly, swoopy one where the guy's running, but it's still like, "cooooooool, a waterspout!"

"I'm in Chicago: it was muggy at 2pm, cloudy at 3pm, the end of the fucking world at 4pm, sparkling sunshine at 5pm."

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:03 PM on August 12, 2020 [22 favorites]

My little strip of townhouses seems to be the ONLY area of my neighborhood with no damage. Across the street and down the block and directly beyond have uprooted trees of all sizes—some huge, vent/chimney caps blown off of houses, multihome metal mailboxes bent in half... today is full of the sound of fallen trees being cut up and hauled away.

Feeling very blessed that I had absolutely no damage beyond my internet/cable being out for a day...which was actually rather nice.
posted by bookmammal at 12:08 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

As someone who grew up in rural Illinois, I know tornado weather and am terrified of tornado weather even though I have lived more of my life in Chicago than not, and we're not supposed to get tornadoes here. So let me tell you how thrilled I was when that recognizable green sky and noticeable pressure drop happened. (I was not thrilled at all.)

All that said, I didn't know what a derecho was until 3 days ago.

I luckily didn't have very much damage, except for the few stalks of almost-grown corn in our backyard garden that weren't very sturdy to begin with. However, looking at all the pictures of flattened fields from where I grew up put that in immediate perspective.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:08 PM on August 12, 2020 [10 favorites]

I was about three blocks south of the now confirmed EF-1 that went through Wheaton. Lots of people gawking at the steeple over at the College Church (not affiliated with the school). It picked up then touched down again in Lombard. They might not get power back until Saturday.

It was about 20 seconds of really strong wind. Never heard a roaring freight train or anything but at least the sirens went off (although, funny enough, the one closest to the storm track never did).

A neighbor says she has video of a funnel cloud right over her house as a tree was getting yanked out of the ground. I'm hoping she shares that and I can post it here.
posted by mookoz at 12:15 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Here's the Rogers Park tornado/waterspout video I think Eyebrows is referring to (cw: swearing).
posted by theodolite at 12:15 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

The June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest derecho.
posted by clavdivs at 12:18 PM on August 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm in Chicago, about a mile or less south of where a tornado touched down in Rogers Park. When this was coming on I knew it was gonna be bad. I could feel it in the air and the sudden darkness. I watched it from my back porch—perhaps not the safest idea in the world. And it was terrifying. Such powerful wind as I do not remember ever seeing here. But it was over in less than five minutes. The absolute worst was over in less than two minutes, probably. Then it cleared up and we've been enjoying gorgeous, warm, low humidity weather ever since.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:19 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Metafilter: Even when it doesn’t seem that bad, it probably was pretty bad and you were just lucky.
posted by PhineasGage at 12:25 PM on August 12, 2020 [19 favorites]

metafilter: I care when people are suffering.
posted by clavdivs at 12:31 PM on August 12, 2020 [9 favorites]

Oh man! I can't believe a tornado tore through my old neighborhood! I remember seeing the beginnings of one in a similar storm there many years ago, the sky that time turned an amazing emerald green (probably from the hail forming in the vicinity) and there was a clear Mesocyclone forming over my apartment and luckily dropped in Lake Michigan. I'm glad this tornado wasn't stronger than an F-1 at least...

Seems like big storms are gunning for all of my current and old neighborhoods this past week or so... Last week the hurricane here and now I'm listening to lots of lightning just outside my window. 2020 for the win, I tell you.
posted by rambling wanderlust at 12:36 PM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Wow, for once central Illinois didn't get the worst of it. I thought that we'd get hammered; when I brought up the weather app, the area around Peoria looked clear, but when I scrolled west, this big red wall was going through Des Moines. I warned people at work that I knew had a long commute, and wondered if I should leave myself (even though I live a very short distance away), but it was like theodolite said--it was sunny, then suddenly a wall-o-cloud, and by the time I left work I didn't even need to use my umbrella. Kind of freaks me out a bit that Rogers Park was hit, because I used to live in West Rogers Park; the Blizzard of '79 was the worst weather I've been in in Chicago.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:36 PM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm in far suburban Chicago (Elgin / St Charles), and it very luckily blew right over us without much damage. I am weather-anxious as an offset of my normal anxiety, so Monday afternoon was a bit rough. I was watching the NWS Facebook posts warning us that it was coming in fast and was going to be BAD, then watched the radar, then got the tornado warning on my phone.

I was at work (I'm the Safety Manager at a manufacturing facility), so I went to the nearest take-shelter area and texted the second shift supervisors where their take-cover shelters are. Then, the sirens went off - my company has this pretty awesome connection with the Emergency Management dept where the tornado warning comes over the intercom. That happened. I waited. I had my laptop with me, and pulled up the west-facing outside camera. After a few minutes, I realized that as the Safety manager I should probably be doing a little bit more, so I left the office and went out into the hall, and all of the employees were gathering into the larger take-shelter areas. Everything looked under control and orderly, so I went back to the office I was in. A few minutes later, I came to the conclusion that being the only person on that side of the office was a bad idea, so I went to the larger one with everyone else. That in itself was a bit worrying, the room was filled to a comfortable capacity, which is definitely not a 6' distance. In the moment though, I'm going to pick that risk over dying in a tornado. Everyone was masked, and incredibly calm and friendly. I talked to the 2 supervisors, they said that everyone knew where to go and did a great job of getting there quickly, without panicking.

I haven't ran any tornado drills at work (they were on the calendar for March, but then Covid). I was incredibly proud and just absolutely thrilled at how well all of the employees did - I can't take all the credit for that, but I am taking some. I make sure that the emergency plans are one of the first things taught to new hires/temps, show them where the maps are posted in their dept, point them out on the tour, etc etc. It was a good validation that I am making a difference here.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 12:43 PM on August 12, 2020 [28 favorites]

Both my parents live in Cedar Rapids in different parts of town and have a lot of damage to deal with. Not sure that they have power restored or not. So many downed trees.

This image of a 2x4 driven through a house in Perry is astounding. Tornado weather, only 250 miles wide...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:55 PM on August 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

Here in Lincoln Nebraska we were out walking at 9AMish. It went from muggy to cool very quickly and there was weird blowing rain/mist but .. it wasn't a patch on what happened to y'all to our east

A friend in CR has been without power since the event, but was told it might be restored later today.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 12:56 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

It went from "sweating on the walk from my car to the house" to "holy crap the trees are doing the Watusi" in the blink of an eye here in St. Louis. We had a motherf%^$@# of a derecho in 2006. Scary.
posted by notsnot at 12:59 PM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

My dad was visiting in Iowa City and went home up I-380 awhile after the storm went by. He got home late in the evening. 380 runs north from I-80. In his text when he got home, Dad explained it had taken so long because he had sat on 380 for two and a half hours (enough time for him to get all the way home to western Iowa) because semis had been blown over on the road. He counted thirty or more on his way.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:00 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

We got lucky down here in Indy. The storm started to dissipate as it crossed our area. We still got some tree-bending winds, but nothing like Chicago and northern Indiana suffered.

A friend of ours up in North Webster had a big tree knocked down and it cleaved his work shed right in half. Their neighbor had a big tree uprooted and thrown across the yard.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:01 PM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Dakota Smith tweets satellite video and the derecho was breathtaking. It moved fast.
posted by theora55 at 1:10 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

I was on a Zoom call with a bunch of coworkers, all of whom (except one) live in various parts of the broadly-defined Chicagoland area. I can only imagine how weird it was for our one DC-area coworker to literally watch all of us one by one from west to east start looking nervously out our windows, getting warnings on our phones, and then picking up our computers and hurriedly getting into our basements with "uhh, I think it's here, might lose power/internet" type messages in the chat. (We're all close, so that's why we stayed on the meeting instead of just hanging up. Believe me no work was getting done at that point.) I kind of wish I hadn't been distracted by the meeting and could have watched from bigger/better windows than in my tiny attic office, but it was also wild to see it sequentially hit the various suburbs and neighborhoods where my coworkers live.

Personally, I observed that the damage really varied block by block, which tracks with my experience of past derechos and other big storms in Chicago. My block got off easily - only two big tree branches down and nothing hit any cars or houses. Some blocks looked completely unscathed. Others had multiple huge branches or halves of trees or whole trees blocking streets, crushing cars, resting on roofs. Went for a run this morning and some streets are still partially blocked by downed trees - the city forestry department is working overtime to clean it all up, I'm sure.

It cannot be over-emphasized how powerful it was, but also how quickly it was over. It wasn't even enough rain to flood our basement, which frequently gets some water from a foundation crack during storms.
posted by misskaz at 1:10 PM on August 12, 2020 [11 favorites]

It hasn’t even been a decade since the last severe derecho to hit Chicago:July 2011 Midwest Derecho.
posted by notoriety public at 1:14 PM on August 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm about 2 miles northeast of Midway airport, and it sounds like things were a lot milder where I'm at than it was on the north side. Here's some footage from the phunniemee household. Only some medium size branches down around near me, except 2 blocks where there are some much bigger trees in front of the school...big ol branch right through a (parked, unoccupied) truck. Oof.

While my dog and I were sitting blithely in front of giant panes of breakable window, a friend in Lakeview was texting me increasingly desperate pictures of her two angry cats and husband all crammed into the world's smallest bathroom for safety.
posted by phunniemee at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

Chicago we had the matinee out here in Mass last week. Thankfully it wasn’t nearly as bad a power outage as a week but it’s sure annoying as hell. Good luck out there!
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2020

You can see the damage to crops from space. That's... probably not a great sign.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:22 PM on August 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

Here's a pretty impressive photo by Nick Ulivieri that showed the storm closing in on downtown Chicago.
posted by mookoz at 1:25 PM on August 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

A colleague just north of Cedar Rapids, a stern Dean of Agriculture not given to drama or exaggeration, described watching trees get pulled up and blown across a field like a tumbleweed.
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:26 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Honestly wish I'd been there -- I kinda miss feisty weather, despite the danger and inconvenience. The only weather I get is "will it be 4deg warmer than yesterday, 4deg cooler, or (dramatic drum roll) the same temp?"
posted by aramaic at 1:45 PM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

We had one here in CO about 6 weeks ago. I have old-timey outward-opening casement windows in my apt. One window was open about 10" on the windward side. It bent the steel rod about 15 degrees and split a hinge in two.

Wee bit gusty out that day.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:50 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

Whoa, seven tornados in the area! I always thought because the housing was pretty dense that a tornado was unlikely but everything is weird now.

This is a myth. There's no reason for housing density to reduce the likelihood of a tornado. The reason tornadoes rarely touch ground in Chicago is mostly 1) the size of the downtown/urban core relative to the rest of the area, which just makes it unlikely a tornado will hit there vs anywhere else and 2) to a very small extent, the temperature of the water in Lake Michigan, which can have a mitigating effect on storms before the water warms up too much.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

(Not to say that weather isn't getting all fucked up -- just that an increased number of severe storms is just as likely to have storms hitting Chicago as anywhere else in Illinois.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:08 PM on August 12, 2020

Hooo boy, I live on Lake Shore Drive in a highrise, and I was watching out my bedroom's west-facing windows, and I saw layers of cloud with a low, dark gray one coming in hot over Wrigley Field—it had a tail streaming off the back end of it, and that tail had some serious rotation going on. It started to dip, and for a second I thought it'd dip into the ballpark, but it moved off really fast and out of my line of sight. I said to my friend on the phone just then that I thought it was a nascent tornado that didn't quite form then fell apart. However, I saw this the next morning. That was caused by the thing I saw, for sure. (Imagine being on a bus or in one of those cars, omg.)

That wind slammed into the west face of my building hard, my windows rattling and looking like they were rippling, and we had a lot of debris in the air, all rotating. But I have a skyscraper and another tall bldg. out back of me, and if I had to guess, one tried to form there too, but because of the shapes and height of the two buildings behind me, it didn't happen. Just a guess, but that's sure what it looked like in the moment; the action area of this storm was low to the ground, not taller than 60 stories.

Hate the damage, but man, a good storm is really cool to watch.
posted by heyho at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm in central Iowa. My whole town is without power and cell service, there are lines 50 cars long at the gas stations. The wind smashed one of my windows and a tree fell on two cars in my apartment complex's parking lot. I've been through hurricanes - including Sandy - and through some of the milder derechos that have swept through Iowa over the past couple years, but this is some of the most apocalyptic-feeling weather I've experienced. They're saying we might be without power for a whole week.

I was absolutely unprepared how cut off I would feel from the whole world without anything to connect me to the internet, or to the outside world - except the radio DJ in Des Moines being all "Ha ha, it's national S'Mores day, you deserve a S'More after this morning, don't you?"

(I really wanted to scream that I didn't even have a place to buy chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, never mind any appliance capable of melting chocolate.)

I have just realized what a pain it is to be an apartment tenant in a rural area. If I owned a house, or even rented a house, I might have a grill, I might even have a generator. Instead I was eating lukewarm Spaghetti-Os straight out of the can. (Monday night I drove 45 minutes just to come to the conclusion that there were no open restaurants in a 45-minute radius.)

As of this morning my place of work is more or less the ONE place in my town that has power and internet. (I think there's one or two grocery stores running on generators). Thank goodness for a place to charge my cell phone. I'm not looking forward to another hot night filled with the sound of generators.
posted by Jeanne at 2:21 PM on August 12, 2020 [17 favorites]

Hugs to all of you! We had a derecho here in the DC area several years back, and it was also my introduction to the word. Scariest, most destructive weather I've ever seen in my life - we piled into the bathtub when it hit and then everything was just GONE for at least a week. Fingers crossed that you all get power (and water, and internet) back on soon!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 2:34 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

"It cannot be over-emphasized how powerful it was, but also how quickly it was over. It wasn't even enough rain to flood our basement, which frequently gets some water from a foundation crack during storms."

Yeah, same. We spent two hours prepping the basement for flooding + blackout (we have a water vac for big storms, but with likely blackouts, all bets would be off) and then ... barely even any rain.

"Everyone was masked, and incredibly calm and friendly."

I honestly think this is because Midwesterners all grow up doing tornado drills in school and they're kind-of a fun interruption to the school day and relatively sociable, so we've been Pavlovianly trained to be happy and chatty when in tornado shelters.

I admit that like a lot of Midwesterners, I make my (Floridian) spouse, my kids, and my pets go to the basement, but I usually stay upstairs, often on the porch, to watch the sky and judge how bad it is (while obviously simultaneously watching the weather guy on TV), right up until the sirens actually go off. I don't know why I'm compelled to do this, but, like, someone in the household has to? It seems like a rule? (In Peoria I used to see one adult from basically every house on the block standing on the porch watching the sky, but in the Chicago suburbs I might be a lone weirdo?)

Anyway, yesterday was scary enough that I watched out the front picture window from an interior hallway 20 feet away from exterior walls and windows. Sheesh! (If I'd had a weather radio I probably would have been in the basement.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:36 PM on August 12, 2020 [11 favorites]

The Labor Day Derechos of 1998 struck our neighborhood after a hot, humid day.

It was 2am. The only warning was a weather radio alarm; on the television a well-known weathercaster was excitedly broadcasting live. I awoke the household to batten down hatches just as, over just a few minutes, things went from hot and still to a weird, flashing green sky to batshit-insane, end-of-the-world wind that struck with a deafening roar.

Afterward trees blocked all our doors. We exited through a window to check on elderly neighbors. The street was unrecognizable, huge fallen trees obscuring the pavement and parked cars.

Two died at the State Fair which immediately shut down. Our street was blocked for three days and our power out for ten. We spent daylight hours during that time cutting and hauling broken trees non-stop.

All who lived through it know well that derechos are fearsomely powerful events that do a lot of damage in a short, concentrated blast. I fear that such dramatic weather events will become more common in our future.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2020 [10 favorites]

I well remember that 1998 Labor Day derecho. I think it was a week that we were without power, my backyard was full of fallen trees, and the street was blocked for a few days. It was terrifying.
posted by maurice at 3:31 PM on August 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

A friend posted photos of where they live in Rogers Park, whole trees uprooted (one that lifted the sidewalk slabs next to it a good couple feet, chimneys blown over and covering the yard below with bricks, facade damage, cars smushed by downed trees. They were fine, but a lot of others not so much. My sister up in the northern suburbs said there were branches down, but they never lost power. Scary stuff.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:13 PM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

So in St. Louis, we got the mild end of the derecho, but the local newspaper put up this article with photomontage. The mailbox in the above-ground rootwad in some of the pictures cracked me up - out of context it looks like a battery pack for the World's Biggest Cordless Screwgun...
posted by notsnot at 4:28 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

In Cedar Rapids, they’re saying this is worse than the flood of 2008, which is all but unfathomable to me. I feel guilty being so far away in North Dakota, unable to help. Everyone has sustained damage. I don’t know if anyone has electricity in CR yet—people are waiting in huge lines at the few gas stations with gasoline to fill up so they can charge their phones in their cars and at least stay connected.

This comes just after the Sweet Corn Festival (a yearly fundraiser the church I grew up in puts on) was canceled this year in favor of a day of taking donations of food and cleaning products for those impacted by COVID. Nobody needed this, and here it is anyway.
posted by epj at 5:04 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's worse in Cedar Rapids than you know. That thing has been all over my Facebook feed. There's a growing sense that the national media is ignoring the situation in Cedar Rapids because they don't care about flyover country (you know the drill.) And I don't know if that's true or not: my sense is that a similar situation in, like, New Hampshire or Central Virginia would probably also not get a ton of media attention. But yeah, things are bad, and it doesn't seem to be getting a ton of attention outside of the immediate area.

According to my neighbors, we still don't have power, but there are trucks out and it looks like progress is being made.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:48 PM on August 12, 2020 [12 favorites]

I work in Marshalltown Iowa. We had a Derecho in 2011, where we were out of power for a week. 2 years ago we had a EF3 tornado go through our downtown. And now we were right in the middle of this derecho.

The damage from this storm looks just like the damage from the tornado, maybe a little less severe, except the entire town got it, and not just a swath 2 blocks wide.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:57 PM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

It was bad timing for mass power outages since a bunch of line workers who would otherwise be in the area or available to drop everything and drive out to assist with the repairs are still fixing damage from Isaias.

BTW, any of you that live in a high rise should be aware that tornadoes are perfectly capable of blowing out all the windows in a skyscraper. The windows in that kind of building are certainly more durable than anything found in a single family home or small apartment building except for Miami-Dade certified hurricane windows, but they aren't magic. A tornado passed through downtown Fort Worth in the 2000s and blew out every window in one of its skyscrapers. Luckily, it was an office building and it was the middle of the night, so there was not a mass blinding incident. More recently, a 100+ foot tall building in Tulsa was damaged so severely that the building had to be condemned because the structural steel had been twisted too badly to repair. Do not mess with tornadoes.
posted by wierdo at 8:45 PM on August 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

To be very clear, no amount of human construction has any effect on the development of a tornado. The sheer mass of the air currents involved dwarf even our largest structures. The circulation extends miles into the air. The danger zone is not limited to the area of the condensation funnel, either. A bunch of storm chasers died in Oklahoma earlier this decade due to that exact myth when their cars got caught in the circulation outside the visible funnel cloud. It's actually not uncommon for a tornado to be doing significant damage while there is no visible funnel.

I totally get the impulse to gawk at nature's fury. I've stood outside when mesocyclones that were about to drop a tornado passed over my house. I've stood outside in the middle of a hurricane, too. Even with one eye on the radar and an understanding of the limitations of the technology and delay in seeing updates either one could easily have been the last bad choice I had the opportunity to make. Don't be stupid like me.
posted by wierdo at 8:59 PM on August 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

A friend in Cedar Rapids just posted on Facebook that a man on his street died of a heart attack while clearing trees and debris. Because of the lack of phone/cell service they had problems calling 911 and it took 15 minutes for the fire department to arrive and 30 for an ambulance. Heartbreaking.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:52 AM on August 13, 2020

I and my siblings all live in eastern Iowa and were affected by the derecho.

Sibling in the southeast (near Burlington) was aware that there had been a storm, but said their power remained on and there was no damage to their home that they were aware of.

I am in east central Iowa, near Iowa City; we had a few small-medium branches down from our maple tree (probably would have been more if not for a less severe windstorm a few weeks earlier), we lost a few shingles from the roof, and a neighbor's trampoline appears to have been picked up and dropped repeatedly. Our power was out for 20 hours, but the weather after the derecho was cool (if humid), and we have a generator, so we were able to keep the refrigerator going and watch a little Netflix before bed, a neighboring town retained its electricity so getting gas for the generator wasn't a problem, and I wasn't hugely inconvenienced. Also the stars were amazing that night. I could only make out a couple constellations I knew, because there were so many "extra" stars.

Sibling in Cedar Rapids had just bought a very nicely-maintained older house and had been living in it for maybe three weeks. Took the afternoon off with their spouse to celebrate a personally meaningful anniversary, and their roof got "capri-sunned" (their verb) by at least three tree branches, each about four inches in diameter, one of which went through an upstairs bedroom wall. The rain then went through the holes into the house, wet the insulation in the attic, came down around the light fixture in the downstairs bathroom, and was coming through the basement ceiling as sibling, spouse, and their cat huddled in the basement for an hour. They'll be fine -- their insurance will cover it, they had some money anyway, and both sets of parents will happily throw money at any problems that remain -- but as far as I know, they still don't have power, and they hadn't even finished unpacking stuff yet.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:03 AM on August 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

I live in Iowa City and my parents live in Cedar Rapids just up the road. It’s insane. We have power but my boss doesn’t and has moved his family into the lab. Some of my friends and coworkers don’t have water and cannot flush their toilets. Friends with crushed cars and houses. Detestation everywhere. It’s pretty crazy, some of the worst destruction I’ve seen from wind and I grew up here. As we are scrambling to resume in person classes as thousands of students descend on the area it sort of just feels like getting kicked while you’re down. Stay safe everyone.

If anyone in the area needs anything, please message me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:06 AM on August 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Just got off the phone with my mom in Cedar Rapids. Evidently generators are getting shipped to Menards and whatnot, but they fly off the pallets as soon as they get unloaded. They MIGHT get electricity back next week. There are perhaps three places in the metro area that can sell gasoline.

Somebody asked her why she didn't go into the office, but what would that do? No computers, lights, or phone, going to make things a bit difficult. Haven't heard from my dad in a bit, I hope he can at least get out of his driveway now.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:15 AM on August 13, 2020

My daughter lives in Rogers Park and her block and the blocks surrounding it saw zero damage. I always forget just how concentrated tornado damage is/can be. She and her roommates didn't even realize how severe the damage was just a few blocks northwest of them until they started looking at the news.
posted by cooker girl at 9:16 AM on August 13, 2020

My mom, up in St. Paul, MN, said that they escaped the killer winds, but that night there was an incredible hailstorm.

Spathe Cadet: Sibling in Cedar Rapids had just bought a very nicely-maintained older house and had been living in it for maybe three weeks.

Here in my Rhode Island town, someone bought a 1700s-era house that had been on the market for years. We were all delighted that a young couple with an interest in history were going to fix it up...and then a hurricane came through town and dropped trees on it and trashed the entire garage and ruined the house. Two (three??) years later, they have finally scraped up enough money & historical expertise to start work -- but it has been open to the weather the whole time. They said that the old construction techniques and huge beams mean it has a very good skeleton, but....

The garage is simply gone, the house is propped up with beams while they reinforce it, and the worst hurricane season since 2005 has just begun. *gulp*
posted by wenestvedt at 9:39 AM on August 13, 2020

Having lived the '08 flood, hearing CR is faring worse now is absolutely crazy. My sister and her family are told it will be a week to restore power to their neighborhood. Their air conditioner (200-300lbs?) was ripped off its little foundation and flung into the back yard. They luckily scored a generator so can keep food cold and phones charged, but it sounds terrible.

I know even as a (relatively) climate-woke Midwesterner this opening my eyes to what the impact of climate change might be. Hopefully folks are paying attention.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:55 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

If it makes y'all feel any better, Hurricane Elvis was a derecho that ripped through Memphis in 2003. We were out of power for two weeks. Almost every stoplight in town was destroyed, and it took months to replace them all. The national news never reported on any of it.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2020

I live on the Chicago north side near a block that's a historic district of 100-ish year old homes, (mostly by George Maher, a student of Lloyd Wright's). A huge tree that was quite possibly as old as the 1895 house it belonged to fell over onto the house next to it - amazingly, it put a good dent in the roof and wall it landed on, but the house held up. (They're cutting it up today - I kinda wish I could take a chair, go sit and watch the process...)
posted by dnash at 11:20 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

The national news never reported on any of it.

Is this because there's no multi-day build-up like with a hurricane? Or is it as simple as the phrase "fly-over states" would have you believe?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:23 AM on August 13, 2020

My in-laws live in Parkersburg which got utterly destroyed in 2008 by an EF5 tornado. They got some high winds from the derecho but no damage. Amazing.
posted by slogger at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2020

Alliant Energy says it's going to be 5-7 days before the majority of people in Cedar Rapids have power. I'm guessing it'll be longer for me (between Ames and Iowa City) but I guess it's too much to hope for any more solid estimate.

Is this because there's no multi-day build-up like with a hurricane? Or is it as simple as the phrase "fly-over states" would have you believe?

This is a good question - I spent my teen years in North Carolina, so I can well remember the hype that came with every hurricane that came barreling up the Atlantic! Hurricanes have a multi-day build-up and you don't really know which way they're going to go until they've already been on their way for a while, so the number of viewers in the "it might hit us" zone is huge for just about every hurricane that hits the US. Worried viewers are profitable viewers. The audience is much smaller after the hurricane is over; either you're affected (and quite possibly without television) or you're fine. Even for hurricanes, there's not nearly as much appetite for the aftermath as there is for the buildup. (Unless it's a huge disaster, on a Katrina scale - or unless it hits New York.)
posted by Jeanne at 2:33 PM on August 13, 2020

We're in North Center (bordering on Roscoe Village) in Chicago. Our block got absolutely trashed. Not a lot of complete trees down, but there were probably a couple dozen mature hardwoods that were forcibly topped off. Our street was totally impassable for days. Our power went out within the first 5 minutes, and we finally came back on last night, so I'm a bit late to the thread.

But here's one legit nice thing: maybe an hour after the wind subsided, our mail carrier was threading their way through the mess on foot and delivering packages.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ... nor apparently a whole mess of downed trees. Hooray for the USPS.
posted by theoddball at 2:39 PM on August 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Checking in from Des Moines--well, not really. Checking in from my parents' house in Dubuque because we haven't had power since 11 AM Tuesday and I can't take it anymore. This is the first storm we've had that scared us so much that we went from our "normal" finished basement and into the boiler pit which is another half story deeper underground. As we moved through the garage we heard a window shatter. Later we learned that a massive oak limb had crashed into our roof, then scraped the side of the house before breaking up and cracking the roof of my wife's Jeep. In the process it took out an attic window and a garage window. Another massive oak limb is taking up most of my backyard. This could have been a lot worse for us. I took my bike around the neighborhood yesterday and saw old-growth trees down somewhere on almost every block. There's got to be at least five if not ten places where power poles are snapped and lines are on the ground, and this is just in my neighborhood.

My drive from Des Moines to Dubuque took me through miles of destruction along the US 30 route, including the Cedar Rapids area. Entire fields of crops ruined. Grain elevators crushed and tossed around like beer cans. A row of three Harvestore silos--two lying down, one buckled and bent 90 degrees. Roofs sheared off of steel buildings. I've never seen anything like it here.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:48 PM on August 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Here's some intense video of the storm from downtown Cedar Rapids. It looks like a hurricane, but with basically no warning.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:54 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Eleven days later, my sibling and in-law in Cedar Rapids (and 10,000 other households) still doesn't have power. (They can continue in their current shelter indefinitely and are fine.) Estimated restoration date is now Monday the 24th, a full 2 weeks after the derecho.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:41 PM on August 21, 2020

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