IOWA DERECHO 2020

Northern Lights Stables in Mount Vernon copes with destruction from the derecho storm

'This is what we do every day'

Winds from an Aug. 10 derecho caused extensive damage at Northern Lights Stables in Mount Vernon. (Alexandra Skores/The
Winds from an Aug. 10 derecho caused extensive damage at Northern Lights Stables in Mount Vernon. (Alexandra Skores/The Gazette)
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Northern Lights Stables in Mount Vernon saw massive destruction to its land and barn arena.

For the Mount Vernon stables’ barn manager, Hannah Owens, the derecho storm that passed Iowa on Aug. 10 was one of the most traumatic experiences of her life.

Owens and barn boarder Christine Kennedy huddled in a sheltered feed room as the storm passed through the area. The two had managed to bring in half the horses they had, but had to leave some of the horses outside as the gusting winds became dangerous.

From the inside, the two could hear tin scraping off the roofs and horses making noises in fear. From the inside, they could see the roof creating waves.

“Inside (the horses) were pretty frantic. Luckily, no one was hurt. We just figured horses would be dead, but they weren’t,” Owens recalled.

Losing power proved to be difficult for the stables, said Dani Zwanziger, a Northern Lights employee.

Though power has been restored, stable employees had to adjust the feeding process due to the limited access to electricity.

“It was just really devastating,” Zwanziger said. “I just got really choked up” seeing the destruction.

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Zwanziger said she immediately drove to the stables and saw the Mount Vernon farms and barns that had been torn, and was fearful she would return to nothing. The stables owner, Deborah Johnson, hopes to have a restored facility by winter after hiring a demolition company, Zwanziger said. Owens had called Johnson to alert her to be prepared to return to nothing, as they had thought they lost everything.

“It was just emotional seeing it — this is what we do every day. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into this,” Owens said.

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