Now seven weeks ago, Cedar Rapids was hit by intense winds upwards of 100 mph killing virtually all forms of communication.
This event left many Iowans unable to get into contact with loved ones, Danielle Sweet and her family just being one of them.
Danielle started out on August 10th thinking it was just another normal day of work. When the weather quickly turned violent that afternoon, she called her thirteen year old son at home with her six month old. he proceeded to tell her that their house was on fire after a tree had fell onto the washer and dryer. Immediately after receiving the news, the call dropped.
“I mean I tried to call him a hundred more times, I tried to call my mom. There were a couple times where I thought someone maybe answered and I couldn’t hear them”, said Danielle.
Not knowing if they were okay, Danielle raced home through the storm to find her home in ruins. Luckily, her children were safe at a nearby school.
Like Danielle, so many rely on a quick text or call to communicate with one another, but with widespread cell phone outages, that was nearly impossible.
Rich Kinney is a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Davenport. He explains that, “We did have widespread cell phone outages that did happen as it swept through. so again, no individual system on its own is fail safe. If there is a potential, you really have to stay in the loop with as many sources of information as you can”.
When cell phones fail, the public needs to rely on many forms to get information.
“We advocate getting a weather app on your phone to be alerted with storms. We advocate certainly weather radios to make sure that in the middle of teh night when you’re not looking at your phone that weather radio goes off and alarts you of what’s happening. And we certainly advocate the use of outdoor warning sirens”, says Steve O’Konek, Linn County Emergency Management Coordinator.
With most of these forms being somewhat unreliable during and after the derecho, Greg Buewlow, Cedar Rapids Safety Communications Coordinator, say that the public needs to have a radio on hand.
“WMT is designated as the emergency alert system broadcast channel or the radio channel in which vital information needs to get across”, says Buelow. He encourages the public to take note of this for future use.
From this unprecedented situation comes lessons learned and many are working hard to find improvements for future weather events.
“The National Weather Service and our partners are not stopping at moving forward looking at better ways constantly to get the word out to folks, to get that warning and that advanced notice”, says Kinney.
After losing almost everything, Danielle is working towards a fresh start as they begin to rebuild their home.
“I’ve wanted to move a million times, but I think Iowa is like my home now”, says Sweet.