UP 7941 leads a west bound intermodal by a flooded Iowa soybean field.
Iowa's seen a pretty rough year in 2020. June left it's mark with flooding, which destroyed many fields along creeks and rivers. Just shy of two months later, we witnessed the most devastating wind event in recorded Iowa history: the August 10, 2020 derecho.
According to estimates, more than 3.5 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans were affected in Iowa, which accounts for about 20 percent of our state's total farmland. The cost of the weather event is estimated to have caused at least $7.5 billion in damages. That's a number which exceeds the estimates of all but one of this year's hurricanes.
The peak recorded wind gust was 126 mph in Atkins, Iowa -about four miles from my home as the crow flies. However, many estimates put peak wind speeds as high 140-160 mph in some areas, such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In contrast, these are winds winds matching strong EF3 tornadoes and Category 4 hurricanes. Damage from the storm covered a massive area approximately 60 miles wide and 400 miles long. The high winds persisted for a intense 40-60 minutes.
Many areas were without electricity for 2-3 weeks while snapped power poles and high tension transmission towers were replaced, and trees and other debris were cleared to allow. Many houses that managed to escape damage from high winds were damaged from snapped, obliterated and uprooted trees.
Only four people died in Iowa from the storm itself - a true blessing in the midst of the disaster. The countless injuries from the following cleanup and recovery (ongoing to this day, several months later) is a story for another day.
A year like this, I hope to never see again in my lifetime.