Midwest Derecho Relief

On August 10, several Midwest states were ravaged by a rare weather event known as a derecho. A derecho is a fast moving and destructive inland windstorm accompanied by heavy rain or thunderstorms that can produce damage similar to that of a tornado or hurricane.

The 2020 derecho raged across nearly 800 miles for 14 hours. The storm produced wind gusts of greater than 70 miles per hour, with some locations reporting gusts equivalent to a category 4 hurricane.

The derecho caused destruction from North and South Dakota to Ohio. Though the impact was widespread, the state of Iowa saw some of the most significant effects, including wide-scale utility disruptions, destruction of residential and commercial property, and severe damage to more than 10 million acres of crops. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), damage from the storm, including agricultural impacts, totaled $7.5 billion, exceeding the impact of most of the tropical storms and hurricanes that made landfall in the United States in 2020.

In the wake of the storm, CoBank reached out to customers and partners in the impacted states to offer its support and to identify those providing aid. As is often the case, one of the first relief organizations on the ground was the American Red Cross. Nearly 420 Red Cross volunteers and disaster workers responded, providing food, water, shelter and other relief services in affected communities. In Iowa and Illinois, the organization provided more than 55,000 meals, distributed nearly 20,000 relief items and provided more than 3,500 overnight stays in hotels or shelters.

CoBank partnered with several of the nation’s leading cooperatives serving agriculture and rural communities to provide financial assistance for the recovery effort. CHS, CoBank, Farm Credit Services of America, and Land O’ Lakes, Inc. jointly contributed $200,000 to the American Red Cross.

“The Midwest derecho could not have come at a more difficult time,” said Thomas Halverson, CoBank’s president and chief executive officer. “The storm hit when rural communities across the nation were already being affected by unprecedented challenges due to the effects of COVID-19. CoBank was honored to do our part to help ease the most immediate suffering and even more proud to do so in partnership with our customers and Farm Credit colleagues.”

Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS, noted, “The impact of this devastating storm on local cooperatives, farmers and rural America was significant. But the cooperative spirit is strong and the people in these communities are resilient. Those qualities will serve them well as they rebuild their businesses, their homes and their lives.”

Mark Jensen, president and CEO of Farm Credit Services of America, said, “The derecho was devastating not only for ag producers, but also for the families, friends and neighbors in their communities. We’re happy we could join with other cooperatives to support the important work of the American Red Cross to address the needs of entire communities in these challenging times.”

Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’ Lakes, Inc., said, “As a nearly 100-year-old, farmer-owned cooperative, we know that we do better when we look after our neighbors. Land O’ Lakes was privileged to join other national cooperatives to do our part in supporting the vibrant, rural communities that continue to feed our country.”

Though the devastation resulting from the derecho was tragic and unprecedented, recovery is underway and many communities continue to receive ongoing support from the Red Cross.

“The devastation across Iowa following the derecho was unprecedented and heartbreaking,” said Jill S. Orton, regional chief executive officer, Nebraska Iowa Region, American Red Cross. “After the storm hit, Red Cross volunteers were on the ground to assist those who were affected. We have the ability to help communities respond to and recover from large-scale disasters due to the support we receive from organizations such as CHS, Land O’Lakes, Farm Credit Services of America, and CoBank. The recovery process in many communities is going to be a long, extensive process. This generous gift allows us to deliver help and hope to families and individuals who are picking up the pieces and determining how to move forward.”