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Everything you need to know about the August 10 derecho

Without much warning, a devastating derecho struck Iowa and other Midwestern states with high winds on August 10, 2020.

Here’s a timeline of the storm, its aftermath, and the cleanup process.

The derecho itself

“The derercho was not in the forecast,” explains Iowa state climatologist, Justin Glisan.

The storm system began early on the morning of August 10 in southern South Dakota, he says. By 8 or 9 a.m., it crossed the Iowa/Nebraska border and severe thunderstom warnings were issued.

Glisan was hopeful the storm system would stick together and bring relief to the west-central part of Iowa suffering from extreme drought. However, near Carroll, Iowa, the storm “hit a very unstable atmosphere, and that’s where it exploded.”

Glisan recalls, “For me in Des Moines, specifically, I knew it was coming about an hour and a half before it happened. We didn’t expect it to be this severe until about half an hour before it hit Des Moines.” The National Weather Service issued a rare alert labeling the storm system a “particularly dangerous situation.”

Map of estimated wind speed during Iowa derecho
Photo credit: Justin Glisan

As the storm moved through Iowa, it significantly strengthened. Rainfall and wind intensified as it marched east.

In total, the storm held together for 14 hours and traveled 770 miles from southern South Dakota to western Ohio.

The derecho’s devastating destruction

After the storm passed, millions of acres of damage crops, crumpled grain storage, and destroyed buildings were in its wake.

Lee Lubbers, of Xtreme Ag, farms in southern South Dakota, where the derecho first formed. His farm was hit with some hail, but “all in all, we feel lucky,” he says.

Oregon, Illinois, farmer Dan Luepkes reported scattered down corn and green snap after the derecho. “It took our top end off of some fields with high yield potential,” he explains.

Kelly Garrett, also of Xtreme Ag, farms near Arion, Iowa, and drove to Pontiac, Illinois, shortly after the storm. The widespread damage was like nothing he’d ever seen, he says.

Farmers Business Network says 15% of their Iowa members reported 50% or more of their corn was laid down.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture estimates that 3.5 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans grown within a 36-county area were the hardest hit.

Crop damage is so widespread, it’s visible in satellite imagery, shown below. The lighter green areas were directly hit by strong winds. Brown areas indicate metro areas.

Map of wind damage in Iowa
Photo credit: Justin Glisan

“The severity of the damage varies by field, but some acres are a total loss and it will not be feasible for farmers to harvest them,” says Iowa secretary of agriculture Mike Naig.

Leroy Kline farms near Brooklyn, Iowa, about halfway between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. He was in his farm shop when the storm struck. Gusts were so strong, rain was blowing up under the siding and coming into the shop. “It was quite a situation for about 30 minutes,” he says.

Much of his corn crop is lying down. What little remains standing is tattered and bruised. When he talked to Successful Farming on August 19, he was waiting to hear from his insurance adjuster to determine what can be done with the ruined crop.

Derecho damaged corn outside of Williamsburg, Iowa
Photo credit: Natalina Sents

Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Meghan Anderson spoke with Successful Farming from a Boone County, Iowa, farm field. She’s been in several injured fields and is seeing everything from snapped and pinched off corn to root lodging.

“This late in the growing season, there isn’t any growing left for the corn to do, and so there isn’t really much it can do as far as trying to upright itself or turn back up toward the sun. What we’re seeing today, we’re probably only going to see them go downhill from here,” she explained.

Participants in the Pro Farmer Crop Tour were shocked by the severity of the crop damage. A fermented, or sour smell was beginning to waft from some fields where cornstalks were broken and corn kernels littering the ground began to spoil, scouts said.

In a addition to crops in the field, grain storage throughout the region was significantly damaged. Early estimates indicate more than 57 million bushels of permanently-licensed grain storage was seriously damaged or destroyed in Iowa. Co-ops in central and east-central Iowa estimate it will cost more than $300 million to remove, replace, or repair the damaged grain storage bins.

On-farm grain storage was also lost in the storm. Based on a survey of their membership in the derecho’s path, Farmers Business Network estimates 50 to 75 million bushels of bin space belonging to farmers in Iowa will be unusable for the 2020 harvest season.

Resources and recovery

Derecho victims may qualify for a number of USDA assistance programs. “Our agricultural producers provide Americans and consumers around the world with such abundance, it’s critical that we stand with them when confronting disasters like the derecho that has devastated so many in America’s heartland,” says Bill Northey, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

On August 18, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and other state leaders met with President Trump to tour the effect the derecho had on farmers, landowners, and businesses. “We’re going to help you recover from the storm, and we’ll get it done and we’ll get it done together,” said Trump.

On August 20, President Trump approved Reynold’s request for funding under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program for Linn County.

“Disaster assesments for other requested counties are ongoing,” the governor’s office said in a statement. Reynolds had also requested Individual Assistance funding for Audubon, Benton, Boone, Cass, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Grundy, Guthrie, Hardin, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Madison, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama, and Washington counties.

Iowa derecho victims in those counties may be eligible for the Iowa Individual Assistance Program. This program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level or a maximum annual income of $43,440 for a family of three. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.

Trump’s disaster declaration for Iowa also made FEMA’s Public Assistance Program available for the repair or replacement of public infrastructure and debris removal for 16 counties: Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, and Tama.

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Will you have enough on-farm storage for harvest?

I just want to see the responses
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