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Derecho. In a heartbeat Aug. 10, 2020, the word was transformed from an obscure meteorological reference to a terrifying, indelible memory many Eastern Iowans would prefer to forget. And while the deep emotional and physical wounds of last year’s catastrophic storm are increasingly healed and much progress made in repairing or replacing damaged structures, there are many for whom the recovery is far from complete. And some damage, particularly the loss of 80,000 trees in Cedar Rapids — more than half the city’s total tree canopy — will take decades to recover. While the most significant volume of damage occurred in the greater Cedar Rapids and Marion areas, large swaths of central and Eastern Iowa felt the storm’s full force, with winds of up to 140 mph pelting the state for as much as 40 minutes. The Washington Post reported last October that the derecho, which started in Iowa before racing through Illinois and Indiana, was the costliest thunderstorm event in U.S. history, with damages totaling $7.5 billion at that time, including agricultural damage. The total has undoubtedly grown since then. The Iowa Insurance Division hasn’t tracked total insurance claims by geography. Still, communications director Chance McElhaney said that as of July 30, the state’s insurance carriers had reported 223,410 claims for a total of $3.125 billion in claims paid. Another 17,291 claims remained open in various stages of progress. Still, the numbers only tell part of the story. Here are others, from some of those who dealt with the aftermath most directly. Home repair work will persist Jim Sattler, president of the Greater Cedar Rapids Housing and Building Association, said that while it may appear to a casual observer that the majority of repair and reconstruction projects have been completed, much more work remains – especially for homes that sustained interior or other structural damage beyond the more visible roofing and siding issues. “Especially when it comes to a very complicated rebuilding or remodel, if your roof was off and your kitchen needed to be rebuilt – some of these homes practically had to be started over,” Mr. Sattler said. “By the time you started budgeting and getting approval from the insurance company, then line up materials and labor, some of those become pretty major projects.” In late July, Mr. Sattler said he met with one homeowner whose home rebuilding project hadn’t even been started due to complications with the mortgage lender and the insurance company. “It probably will be started in the next few months, but then it will take six to eight months to rebuild, pretty much from the foundation up,” he said. “I would say many projects will linger on, certainly into the spring if not August of next year. There’s a large percentage of these projects that won’t be completed until the second anniversary (of the storm). Maybe 80 or 90% will be complete, but because of circumstances, there certainly are projects that will hit that two-year anniversary. And there’s still jobs that have not been completed on the outside.” As those repair windows remain open, and the Insurance Division advises consumers and contractors to be wary of insurance-related deadlines, Mr. Sattler suggested keeping the lines of communication open. “The consumer should communicate with the insurance companies and say, because the virus and the storm, there’s certainly a backlog of getting material, so those claims will need to be kept open for a longer timeframe, which is certainly permissible and reasonable and necessary,” he said. “It just needs to be communicated that perhaps you can’t get the product or the labor schedule is not conducive to being finished by the traditional deadline. It shouldn’t be an argument or a legal issue; it’s simply a supply and demand issue for material and labor, to work with what is available.” Sign repairs catching up Soon after the storm subsided last year, the calls started coming in droves to repair mangled, demolished business signage. Now, CR Signs owner Aaron Vosmek said, the end is in sight. “We’re getting our feet under us at this point,” Mr. Vosmek said. “Within the next one to two months, we’ll probably get through a lot of our backlog. Right after the storm, we were getting a couple of hundred calls a day, and we were concerned that all the insurance money would come right away. Nobody’s staffed to handle that volume. But luckily, that work trickled in a little bit over time, so we could space a little bit of it out.” Mr. Vosmek said it’s difficult to quantify the number of derecho recovery projects his company undertook. “We had hundreds of projects,” he said. “We do work all across the state of Iowa, so it wasn’t just Cedar Rapids. But we were fortunate because we had records of a lot of that stuff that we could turn quicker. Any signs that we previously built, it was a little bit easier to expedite that process.” Even as a veteran of the industry, however, some memories won’t fade quickly for Mr. Vosmek – watching the large Best Buy sign across from CR Signs’ shop collapse, for example, then undertaking the daunting to replace that sign. “A lot of us were here in the office, and we were watching everything across the street disappear,” he said. “I had never seen anything like that. The steel just basically folded down to the ground. I think a lot of it was because the storm lasted so long. I don’t think we would have seen nearly the damage if it was 10 or 15 minutes of high winds. But because it went 45 minutes, the stresses were just too much.” Ongoing mission for Together We Achieve Perhaps the highest-profile recovery group to emerge from the derecho, Together We Achieve, and the associated Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center was established to address immediate storm recovery needs. Still, founder Raymond Siddell says he finds unmet needs that will propel his agency’s mission for months and years to come. On average, Mr. Siddell said Together We Achieve continues to serve around 1,700 households per month, and just in June, the group saw a 28% increase in clients that had not previously been served. “The other thing we’re seeing is individuals who visited us early on, shortly after the derecho, and they’re coming back around,” he said. “They weren’t regular visitors on a weekly or monthly basis, but we’re seeing some of them come back now.” Part of the reason, he said, is that many people are nearing the one-year deadline for insurance-related repairs. “I’m sure there’s extra expenditures there,” he said, “whether they’re hiring an attorney or trying to get that work done before the one-year anniversary.” In addition, with the recent lifting of the eviction moratorium and changes in unemployment benefits, financial circumstances have changed for many families in entirely new ways. So as derecho recovery shifts to new phases, Mr. Siddell said he’s determined to persevere to meet any community needs that arise. “We were born out of the derecho, and we could have closed our doors six months in and said we did what we could have done,” he said. “But my goal going forward is going to be to engage with the needs that we’re experiencing. I don’t know exactly what that looks like from day to day, or even a month or a year out, but we do know that the needs of our community are changing. “(With the derecho anniversary), we’re celebrating the resiliency of our community,” he added. “That’s what we need to be focused on to ensure that when we look back and when we look forward, we’re proud of the community that we live in and take pride in the fact that if someone is experiencing challenges they’ve never experienced before, there are organizations and resources that will continue to step up to do the right thing.” CBJ Derecho anniversary observances Several local organizations are planning observances Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the derecho. Cedar Rapids Derecho anniversary event at Bever Park 10:30 a.m. to noon Join city leaders, staff and first responders at the Bever Park Pavilion for a tree planting ceremony, followed by lunch and interactive activities. Local food truck vendors will provide free lunch while supplies last. The city will also provide information about disaster preparedness, community replanting efforts, and free giveaways. Emergency responders and city staff will be on hand to answer questions. Marion Derecho – one year later Noon to 10 p.m. The city of Marion plans to mark the anniversary of the derecho on Tuesday, Aug. 10 with a series of events. The events are intended to honor the anniversary and reflect on the progress that has been made. Noon: A commUNITY lunch grilled by Marion Hy-Vee while supplies last and a canned food drive to benefit the Churches of Marion Food Pantry in City Square Park, as well as the reading of a proclamation and unveiling of a new tree carving by Carve-R-Way artist Clint Henik. 2 p.m.: A ceremonial tree planting in Thomas Park and information about the re-planting efforts to date and plans to restore Marion’s tree canopy with Marion’s Urban Forestry Division and Trees Forever. 3:30 p.m.: Dedication of a derecho-inspired art installation in the atrium of Marion City Hall by local artist Cara Briggs Farmer. 4-6 p.m.: Future Focused: United through Recovery social event hosted by Marion Economic Development Corporation, Marion Chamber of Commerce and Uptown Marion and sponsored by Collins Community Credit Union to reflect on the anniversary of the derecho and take note of the forward momentum and development activity that continues in the community. Free to attend, reservations required; register at medcoiowa.org/events. 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.: Derecho Oral History Readers Theatre presented by Marion Public Library and Giving Tree Theater featuring actors reading a selection of oral histories conducted in the spring of 2021. Limited seating, free to attend but advance reservations are required Register at givingtreetheater.com. The History Center Oral histories LIVE! 6 p.m. The History Center invites the community to join in on ORAL HISTORIES LIVE! offering interviews with influential members of Linn County who share their stories and preserve legacies. We will be interviewing David Janssen, executive director of Brucemore and John Myers, executive director of the Indian Creek Nature Center. We will hear about the derecho’s impact, recovery and perseverance. The event will be held outdoors. Please bring a lawn chair. Tickets: $7 general admission, $5 History Center members. Purchase at www.historycenter.org/oral-histories-live.