By Kris Perreault
As I was coming out of the woods on a recent hike in Iowa, and climbing into my SUV on my to make my way home, I noticed the winds pick up quite a bit and the rain start. The rain was the normal sign to call home and have the family close the windows and pick up the yard. My daughter answered the call, and before I could give the instructions she informed me that there was a major storm headed our way. As I drove home the storm began rolling in. Stronger winds and heavy rains at times pushing my vehicle almost off the road and feeling like it would flip it over.
I approached home to find multiple trees snapped in half and others ripped up from their roots. With wind still blowing, rain still falling, and trees and other debris flying through the air, I jumped out of my SUV and ran for my house. Once inside I made sure my family was safe in the basement and the house was buttoned up. I watched through the kitchen window as the storm increased intensity. Parts of houses, trampolines, fences all flying past the house. This was, without a doubt, the worst storm this area has experienced.
For the next 45 minutes I watched so much destruction to neighboring houses and the local schools. As the winds lessened and the rain let up, I ventured outside to inspect damages. As I walked around my home seeing no immediate damages, I checked on my neighbors. With AKUs on my feet and chainsaw in hand I went house by house clearing trees off roads, cars, and houses. I began receiving calls from people asking if I could help in the neighboring city of cedar rapids, so I jumped in my SUV and headed out. My home town of Mount Vernon, only 15 minutes away from Cedar Rapids, had major damage but it was not until I reached the first location in Cedar Rapids that I realized how lucky we were.
The drive was an adventure in itself, stopping to move branches, and cutting trees out of the road to dragging parts of barns off the road. The first house call had multiple trees in their master bedroom, with water pouring in through the roof. As I made the first turn I was immediately blocked and shocked. Oak trees that were originally blocking out the sun were now laying in yards, on houses and blocking streets. With no clear path to drive I grabbed my saw and worked my way toward the home.
As I was cutting my opening toward the home neighbors came out and started helping move what I cut and bringing water and snacks. Due to the concern of fire from all the downed powerlines, I concentrated on clearing the road for fire and ambulance. Once I arrived at the home I took a small break and looked around the neighborhood. The damages were unbelievable, from cars flattened by trees, to parts of houses turned into splinters; it looked like a war zone.
Over the next 12 hours I made my way from house to house, taking call after call to make sure people were safe and start putting tarps on roofs and walls to limit the rain damage. As I drove home completely exhausted, I could not help but feel guilty that I was going home to my family and an untouched home when so many others still had trees in their homes. As I was driving home I stopped and helped one more time to patch up the roof to a home where 3 trees had landed and put holes into the kid’s bedroom, master bedroom and front wall. While we were on the roof finishing up the last patch in the middle of the night by flashlight. The homeowner looked at me and said something I will never forget. “God made sure your home would be untouched by this storm because he knew how much you would be needed to help others.”
In these special times and situations, we find ourselves in this year, my biggest adventure was right here in Iowa cutting up fallen trees and making friends one tree at a time. Here we are two months later still cutting up trees and removing stumps, houses still have holes with tarps over them, and people are trying to get back to some type of normal. More than 80% of Iowa’s corn crop is damaged, powerlines still being repaired, internet being restored and COVID-19 to still deal with. However, we will get through this with strength and friendship and will be there when others need help again.