CEDAR RAPIDS – Only a year ago, Kirkwood Community College’s main campus sustained $2.4 million in damages after the storm of the century hit the Cedar Rapids area. The derecho brought winds gusting to more than 70 mph for the better part of an hour over a large swath of central and eastern Iowa and northwest Illinois. Numerous locations clocked gusts over 110 mph.
With damages estimated up to $7.5 billion in total for the derecho, it has claimed the title of costliest thunderstorm in history, causing the City of Cedar Rapids to lose power for several days and damaged most businesses and homes.
The highest wind gusts were observed in Atkins, at 126 mph. The highest estimated gust, based on the partial destruction of an apartment complex in Cedar Rapids, was 140 mph. Gusts that are comparable to an E3 tornado.
“One could make a strong case that this is the most destructive individual thunderstorm cluster on record in terms of damage cost,” said Steve Bowen, head of catastrophe insight at the insurance broker Aon, in an email to the Washington Post.
“To have a Midwest city endure [such] wind speeds, and also see such a devastating impact to a large volume of regional crops, is almost unbelievable,” Bowen said. “I don’t think most of the country truly realizes how severe the event ended up being.”
The winds of the derecho lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour in some places.
Kirkwood was sent reeling after the $2.4 Million in damages were being fixed and cleaned up.
The Library staff were huddled in the library during the storm and one staff member even had part of the roof fall on their car.
“It knocked out the transformer in the back so the library had to close again. So then we opened the following week,” said Sarah Uthoff a librarian at the Kirkwood library. “At my house a tree fell on a powerline making it dangerous going anywhere.”
The $2.4 million equates to several roof damage on several buildings including the complete loss of the Continued Education Center roof. The Equestrian center and Cedar Hall also took damages in the storm.
The campus also saw lots of odds and ends damaged in the storm such as trailers, fencing and other small but costly damages.
Along with roofing, fences and other damages Kirkwood lost over 100 trees.
More than a year later Kirkwood, has completed all but one of the projects related to derecho recovery. According to Vice President of Facilities Troy McQuillen, two bus stops on campus were damaged in the storm. Previously owned and maintained by a marketing company, the stops are now Kirkwood’s responsibility after the marketing company abandoned the stops after the storm.