IOWA DERECHO 2020

Neighbors face daunting cleanup in Cedar Rapids area after devastating derecho

There is no calm after the storm.

Or power. Or reliable internet. Or much gas.

But after a storm Monday that mimicked an inland hurricane with howling winds reaching 100 mph walloped Eastern Iowa, the sun came up Tuesday on the blessing of neighbors helping neighbors, the curse of long queues at gas stations and grocery stores and the unenviable task of trying to empty the fridge before it’s too late.

Here are your stories:

‘Mother Nature and God is testing us’

Jerry Kadlec and Jayne Kilgallon sat on their porch with a phone book and cellphone trying to get in touch with a tree removal service and Alliant Energy.

A tree was shattered in their backyard, having smashed Kilgallon’s 10-foot tall sunflowers, now resting on their detached garage and pulling cables connected to the house.

“I’m not sure who’s going to clean all this. It’s a whole tree. I can’t move any of it,” Kadlec said. After assessing the damage Monday, Kilgallon invited her neighbors over for beer — “because the beer was getting warm” — in exchange for their labor and chain saws, which quickly ran out of gas.

Kilgallon wished some elected officials would walk by to offer reassurance and maybe coffee.

“This is going to be a double-whammy for people who are unemployed” because of COVID-19, Kilgallon said. “Mother Nature and God is testing us.” ...

Silver lining for handyman’s business

The storm gives Jovan Walton hope will be able to continue providing for his family.

Walton has been the owner of Black Stone Handy Service for 13 years, which does siding, windows and doors. He expects Monday’s storm will keep him busy for the next two years.

“It’s bad, but at the same time it’s a blessing in my book,” Walton said as he picked up scrap metal with his 13-year-old son Tuesday afternoon in the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood.

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Walton’s house, in the northeast quadrant of Cedar Rapids, sustained damage so minimal he said he’s not going to worry about fixing it. The rest of his neighborhood, however, was hit hard, he said, and he spent a lot of the day helping his neighbors clear trees from the road.

In a few days when cellphone service improves, Walton said he expects a lot of calls.

“In the next two weeks, my phone will not stop ringing,” he said.

‘A lot of good trees’

In the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood, James Doolin assessed damage to his sister’s house, a home that was first owned by their mother in 1978. A few doors down is Doolin’s house, where he has lived for 11 years.

Doolin has lived in the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood for most of his life. He believes in the power of his community to work together to clean up wreckage after the storm, but there is a lot of work ahead, he said.

His sister’s house sustained several holes in the siding, shingles are missing and there is a hole in the garage roof.

“We’re losing a lot of good trees. They’re what give a neighborhood character,” Doolin said.

Meeting neighbors

Laurie Thomas, who lives near Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, didn’t observe a lot of structural damage to her house. But like most everywhere, the storm took down a lot of trees.

After the storm cleared Monday and residents walked out to find many of the roads blocked by trees, Thomas said the neighbors assessed the damage and together used chain saws to clear the streets.

“I met neighbors I’ve never met before,” Thomas said. “ ... The pandemic got pushed to the side as we started cleaning up and helping each other out.”

Tree smashes teen’s first car

The only thing 15-year-old Caiden Tresnak could do as Monday’s storm blew through was watch the huge oak tree in the front yard being ripped out of the ground and smashing onto the top of his first car — a Chevrolet Malibu parked in the drive.

His mother, Abby Tresnak, was at Target, talking to Caiden on the phone as the tree fell, also damaging the roof of the porch area and garage in the 100 block of 29th Ave. SW.

“He was watching it as it happened,” Abby Tresnak said.

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The Tresnaks were cleaning up Tuesday with some help from family and friends, but the Malibu remained buried under the large oak. Only the back end of the car, near the taillight, could be seen.

Around the corner in the 2900 block of Bowling Street SW, Andrea Meder and her family also had extensive storm damage, which knocked down a wooden fence surrounding her lot, ripped up trees, tore off gutters and completely ripped up a shed, leaving only the mangled contents behind.

Meder said she was driving home when the storm hit. Everyone went into the basement.

“It was a surprise when we came out of the basement and saw this,” Meder said. “A pine tree is down and probably five or six other trees. The crabapple tree on the corner is down. Shingles are off.”

Meder said her family has lived there since 2008, when they had to move the flood.

‘Hero of the day’

Linda Butler, a former pastor in Dysart, was scared Monday when the powerful winds ripped open her front door, letting in rain water, and then feeling the house, in the 600 block of Fifth Street NW, move a little.

But she said her neighbor had more damage as part of another building across the street behind a parking lot was taken apart by the wind and blown over into her and the neighbor’s house.

Butler’s car, parked in front of the house, was bashed in by pieces of the other building.

“The scariest thing was that a gas hose was pulled out over here (at neighbor’s) and it was lightening out but another neighbor, Leo, came over with a wrench and shut it off. He was the real hero of the day.”

Long way for gas

Cars were lined up Tuesday along the main road in Quasqueton, a small Buchanan County town, waiting to get into K & S Quasky Mart.

Most all of them had plates from Linn County.

“Well …” said store owner/manager Tammy Skocz, pausing, when asked what her day had been like.

Skocz literally was directing traffic, telling someone to pull ahead to one of her three gas pumps as the person ahead of them left.

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“It has been non-stop since last night,” she said. “Even after we closed, they were still getting after the pumps.”

Without power, most gas stations were without the ability to pump gas. That sent tons of people, especially from northern Linn County, to this town along the Wapsipinicon River.

“We don’t have power,” said Jeff Shemek of Walker, as he filled a half-dozen containers with gas. “We had no damage, none. We have no damage whatsoever in Walker, but we still don’t have power. This is nuts.”

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.