Two dead and hundreds of thousands without power after wind storm batters US midwest


Hundreds of thousands across the midwest remained without electricity on Tuesday after a powerful storm packing 100mph winds battered the region a day earlier, causing widespread damage to millions of acres of crops and killing at least two people.

The storm, known as a derecho, tore from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles and causing widespread damage to property and crops. The storm left downed trees and power lines that blocked roadways in Chicago and its suburbs. After leaving Chicago, the most potent part of the storm system moved over north central Indiana.

The storm also did major damage to agriculture. In Iowa, the governor, Kim Reynolds, said early estimates indicated 10m acres had been damaged in the nation’s top corn producing state, nearly a third of the roughly 31macres used for crops in the state. The most significant damage is to the corn crop.

“This morning I had a farmer reach out to me to say this was the worst wind damage to crops and farm buildings that he has ever seen across the state in such a wide area,” Reynolds said.

“It’s incredibly devastating to see what’s happening to crops, and to structures all across the storm path,” said Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary.

Naig said tens of millions of bushels worth of commercial grain storage and millions of bushels of on-farm grain storage had been damaged or destroyed.

Roger Zylstra, who has farmed in central Iowa near Kellogg since 1980, said four of his hog barns had lost their roofs, two of his machine sheds had suffered significant damage and many of his corn acres had been destroyed. Zylstra, 69, said crop insurance would help but that the financial hit would be devastating for many farmers.

“The question remains for all of us is: what happens in the next five or six weeks? How much can we salvage out of these fields?” Zylstra said. “I know that some people won’t survive this.”

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Isabel E Atencio died at a hospital after firefighters pulled her from debris inside her mobile home after high winds rolled it on to its side on Monday night, officials said. Firefighters found the 73-year-old woman under debris inside her toppled trailer and discovered that she was clutching a five-year-old boy believed to be her grandson, authorities said. The boy had minor injuries.

A derecho is not quite a hurricane. It has no eye, and its winds come across in a line. But its damage is more like an inland hurricane than a quick more powerful tornado, according to Patrick Marsh, the science support chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The storm began as separate thunderstorms in South Dakota before strengthening over Iowa; by the time the system reached Des Moines, wind gusts were clocked at more than 100mph, according to climatologists.

Iowa officials reported roofs torn off homes and buildings, vehicles blown off roads and hit by trees, and people hurt by flying debris. One death and dozens of injuries were reported in the state.

Thomas Rowland a 63-year-old bicyclist, died after he was struck by one of several large trees that fell Monday on a bike trail outside Cedar Rapids.

Utility officials in Iowa said it would probably take several days to restore power to everyone. Nearly 340,000 Iowa customers of MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy remained without power on Tuesday afternoon. Another 33,000 in the Illinois Quad Cities region also lacked power.

Power and internet outages were widespread in Iowa’s three largest metropolitan areas: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. The power outages were so extensive that at one point Monday, 97% of households in Linn county, which includes Cedar Rapids, were in the dark, Reynolds said.