9th Ave SE in Oakhill-Jackson Immediately after the derecho on Monday, August 10, 2020. This street sustained mild damage and debris. Most of the city was much worse. Photo by Ben Kaplan.

It’s Worse in Cedar Rapids Than You Know

Ben Kaplan
Aug 12, 2020 · 2 min read

At 11 a.m. on Monday, August 10 2020 Cedar Rapids was there, by 2 p.m. it was gone. Monday’s derecho, a landlocked hurricane with straight line winds over 100 mph, has impacted every part of the city catastrophically. Nearly every home has damage. Most big trees in the city fell. Most local businesses are closed. Every business is damaged. Most roads are impassable. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday 90,000 plus households in Linn County were without power. Restoring power across the grid will take weeks. Lines at gas stations outside of town with power were hours long. Chainsaws are sold out. Generators are sold out. Many gas stations sold out of gas. Cell service and LTE is spotty or nonexistent. You can’t call 911. The city has implemented a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. There are no lights in the city. You can see the milky way from downtown.

The water stayed potable. A saving grace. No power means people without gas stoves couldn’t boil water. Gas leaks throughout the city meant people with gas stoves couldn’t boil water. It would have been impossible to buy any nearby. No internet means no debit cards or credit cards or ATMs. All banks are closed. There wouldn’t have been enough anyway. People with well water and no power are using buckets as toilets.

Most power lines and poles are down. Let’s be clear about what this means. In every neighborhood, on every block, powerlines are down and poles are snapped in half. Powerlines are draped over garages, nestled in broken branches, strung five feet high over roads, laying across the street, across the sidewalk, they are everywhere. If they turned the power back on the city would burn.

There is no trash pickup. There are one hundred thousand fridges of rotting food. There are raccoons.

There is no escape from the heat, except to run out of town to look for basic supplies in an air conditioned car.

Downtown bricks and glass litter the sidewalks. Plate glass windows shattered during the storm. Many businesses have been physically destroyed. All restaurants lost all of their perishables. Factories are closed. Offices are closed. The economy — the whole thing — is stopped.

Cedar Rapids has been destroyed (again!).

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