Aug. 10 at 11:37 a.m. the landscape of Jasper County, Iowa changed significantly when a derecho with long-lasting 95+mph winds blew through Mingo, Ira, Baxter, Colfax, Newton, Kellogg, Sully and Lynnville.
Before Aug. 10 most of us had never heard of a derecho or knew what it was. But after the 45 minutes of torrential downpour and straight line winds ripped through it was clear a derecho was something we would never forget.
While the storm was terrifying, the not knowing the condition of homes and businesses and safety of friends and family was exponentially worse. Jasper County was fortunate as there were few serious injuries caused by the storm but the trees, crops and property did not fair as well.
United Way of Jasper County stepped in to partner with Jasper County EMA, The Way and Community Heights Alliance Church to coordinate clean up efforts for elderly and disabled individuals who were impacted by the storm. From Aug. 17-22, more than 80 individuals volunteered more than 1,000 hours helping 93 homes throughout Jasper County. Jobs ranged from small (raking and removing small debris from yards) to very large (7 massive oak trees falling across a yard). Some jobs were beyond the scope of what we could do and we partnered with Brandon Talsma and Doug Cupples that had access to larger equipment. We also had help from the Drake men's basketball team, Newton Cardinals football team, TPI and several other churches, organizations and individuals who stepped out to help neighbors and strangers in the aftermath.
If you would have asked me if I thought Iowa would see a hurricane I would have thought you were making stuff up for a movie. But after experiencing hurricane strength winds and seeing the aftermath of the storm I won't doubt what 2020 has the power to unleash. In all of the challenges that have come about this year the one thing I can say with total confidence is I'm very proud of the work we have accomplished at the UWJC and our amazing group of volunteers who acted so selflessly in the wake of a devastating natural disaster. 2020 has been a difficult year but people are truly working united as one to help those in need.
Executive Director Jessica Lowe has been with United Way of Jasper County since 2014. Prior to her time with the UWJC, Lowe was an award-winning journalist and a marketing director for a non-profit.