Hundreds of thousands were still without power more than a week after straightline winds tore through the Midwest Aug. 10.

Iowa town ‘looks like a war zone’ after derecho

At least three people in Iowa and one in Indiana died in a recent storm that cut power, felled trees, destroyed crops and damaged buildings in its run from eastern Nebraska across Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois, according to

The storm was categorized as a “derecho” – a phenomena that the National Weather Service defines as a widespread wind damage event caused by severe thunderstorms.

Jerry Palmer, a volunteer disaster relief incident commander from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), arrived in Cedar Rapids today with an advance team of five volunteers. It’s believed to be the first out-of-state team to arrive onsite.

“It looks like a war zone,” Palmer said. “If you could imagine a hurricane in middle America, in Iowa, that’s what you would see. So many power lines down, houses without roofs.” He said the storm stayed on the ground for 40 minutes in the city, with gusts up to 120 mph.

‘Tremendous damage’

“It’s just a tremendous amount of damage here in Cedar Rapids and in other places. This area is devastated,” said Palmer.

Hundreds of thousands were still without power a week after the storm, NBC Nightly News reported Aug. 16. In Cedar Rapids, 75 percent of the city is without power, including Immanuel Church where Palmer is setting up a command post. At the height of outages, more than 1 million were without power across several states.

The power outages and COVID-19 safety protocols have hampered the Southern Baptist disaster relief response.

“We’re hoping to have chaplain and assessor teams on the ground tomorrow (Aug. 18), and maybe by Wednesday we’ll have chainsaw crews in,” Palmer said. “But we’re here probably three or four weeks.”

Hundreds of residents were displaced from their homes by the storm, including refugees who are living in tents after their apartment homes were damaged, Palmer said.

Mike and Shari Carlson, Baptist Convention of Iowa Disaster Relief co-directors, began their assessment and response to the damage Aug. 17.

Devastated homes, crops

Iowa lost about $3.77 billion in soybean and corn crops and suffered about $82.7 million in damage to homes, the Register reported Aug. 17.

Downed trees were stacked as high as 10 feet in some areas and city crews were overwhelmed, NBC Nightly News reported.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told the Register that most power should be restored Aug. 18.

Reynolds has requested $3.9 billion in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance Program for 27 Iowan counties.

Reprinted from Baptist Press (, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.