We’ve felt this awful sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs before, when the power of nature turns the world as we know it upside down.
It came again Monday afternoon as a violent derecho swept across the eastern half of Iowa and on into Illinois, spawning winds in excess of 100 mph. In its wake we emerged from shelter to find our neighborhoods transformed. Trees twisted and broken, roofs cleared of shingles, siding ripped from walls, structures badly damaged and debris everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power.
Few of us, even as severe weather hardened Iowans, had ever seen a storm so ferocious. An “inland hurricane” seemed like an accurate description. Its duration and power were astounding.
But in those stunned moments after the storm, another feeling emerged even before the winds died down and the rain stopped. OK, who needs help? Neighbors checked on neighbors. It wasn’t long before people were pitching in to clear tree damage blocking streets. Some were helping neighbors cover damaged roofs with tarps. Generators were offered to people struggling with powerless sump pumps.
Do you need tools? Do you need ice? What can we do?
We’ve felt this gut punch before, of course, after the flood of 2008, and 2016, and after storms in between. The first impulse always is to help. People rushing to fill sandbags then. People rushing to see what they can do to lessen the blow now.
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Now comes a long, frustrating wait. It could take days to restore power to the metro area, which means the cascading problems associated with no electricity will continue. Necessities will be in short supply. It’s going to be a difficult time. So we need that helpful impulse to continue. We’ll need people coming together, and plenty of patience.
We’re still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. What’s next, 2020? Understandably, the storm is now the problem in front of us, but we can’t abandon virus precautions, wearing masks and social distancing. The virus remains a threat. But we’ll get through this. We live in strong communities that have been tested before. We’ve learned from those experiences. Worlds turned upside down can recover. The derecho of 2020 will be added to a lengthening list of painful tests we have passed. In the meantime, stay safe.
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