The IAFF has assembled a natural disaster go team to Iowa to assist members in the aftermath of the August 10 derecho. The storm packed heavy rain and sustained winds of more than 100 miles per hour, leaving behind a devastating level of damage across the state. Governor Kim Reynolds currently estimates 8,200 homes were destroyed.
News of the impact traveled slowly as communication infrastructure was down for several days. There was no electricity, internet or cell phone reception.
“Cell phone reception is still hit or miss, so we are still working to check in with all our members,” says 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright. “Once the full scope of membership needs has been assessed, we will be providing resources to address those needs.”
Included in the assessment is determining which areas need peer support reinforcement.
In hardest-hit Cedar Rapids, Local 11 Trustee Paul Bagby says, “While we do have our own peer support team, we will need additional assistance because of the level of stress this event has put on all of us.”
In the first 24 hours after the derecho hit, Local 11 members responded to nearly 600 calls, a huge jump from a typical daily call volume of 30 to 40. A few days later, members still were responding to nearly 200 calls per day.
While the response level is going down, Local 11 members have not had a lot of opportunity to take care of their homes and families.
“All of our members experienced some level of damage from minor to severe,” says Bagby. “It has been very tough.”
The Iowa National Guard has been deployed to assist with recovery efforts. Governor Reynolds also formally asked President Donald Trump to declare the state a major disaster area, releasing federal aid.
The IAFF will update this story as more details become available.