National Guardsmen in Iowa played a crucial role in cleaning up after a storm with winds up to 140 miles per hour hit Cedar Rapids earlier this month, uprooting trees, knocking down power lines, and causing power outages across southeast Iowa.
Within 24 hours, Airmen from the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineering Squadron based in Sioux City joined Army National Guard Soldiers in Cedar Rapids to clear the way for the power company to restore power.
“I’ve seen storm damage before, but I have never seen it for miles and miles, like this,” Senior Master Sgt. Dave Twohig, 185th Air Refueling Wing, said in an Aug. 21 press release.
The weather that hit Iowa on Aug. 10 is called a derecho, a storm characterized by hurricane-force winds that runs in a straight line across a wide area. The storm earlier this month cut power for 16,000 people, and Alliant was still working to restore power to 800 people as of Aug. 24, said Capt. Ramah Husidic, Iowa National Guard public affairs officer.
The storm toppled cornfields to such an extent it can be seen from space.
“The Guard provided valuable assistance we needed to help get our customers back on as quickly as possible,” Alliant Energy spokesman Mike Wagner said. “There was street after street after street, just lined with tree branches. In some areas, the piles of branches were almost as tall as our big trucks.”
The Air Guardsmen, equipped with chainsaws and skid loaders, allowed cleanup teams to quickly move through neighborhoods and make sure repair teams could get everywhere they needed to.
“Coordinated work with the National Guard, counties, and cities helped remove nearly 28 million pounds of trees and debris,” Wagner said.
Twohig said that helping fellow Iowans is one of the reasons he is in the Air Guard. “This is what it is all about to us,” Twohig said in a press release. “Everywhere we go, people are waving and honking. It’s been humbling.”
Husidic said the National Guard has now completed its cleanup mission and is preparing for the next time their help is needed.