Powerful derecho leaves path of devastation across Midwest

Severe_Weather_Iowa_90515 A storm with gusts more than 80 mph knocked down a tree, which crushed about four cars in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. No one was injured.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_60946 Pieces of the Buccaneer Arena roof litter the parking lot after a strong thunderstorm with high winds blew through the Des Moines metro on Monday, Aug. 10. 2020, in Urbandale, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_43999 A tree fell across vehicles at a home in West Des Moines, Iowa, after a severe thunderstorm moved across Iowa on Monday Aug. 10, 2020, downing trees, power lines and damaging buildings.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_22308 Des Moines city crews remove a tree fallen on Hickman Road, on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa after a storm with gusts more than 80 mph blew through the city.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_64632 A group of people survey the damage to Buccaneer Arena from the building's lobby after a strong thunderstorm with high winds blew through the Des Moines metro on Monday, Aug. 10. 2020, in Urbandale, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_02868 Severe weather with wind gusts over 80 mph downed trees causing power outages in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_45384 A traffic signal on Clinton Street is downed and signs are bent after a severe thunderstorm, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_77380 Tree limbs are downed in the Northside after a severe thunderstorm, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_32155 Tree limbs are downed in the Northside after a severe thunderstorm, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_14469 Downed trees and a utility pole in front of the home of Tim and Patricia Terres in Walcott, Iowa after high winds and heavy rain passed through the area Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Iowa_03406 Seth James clears downed tree limbs from S Downey St in front of his home in Walcott after high winds and heavy rain passed through the area Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Davenport, Iowa.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_06071 A group of neighbors surveys the damage to vehicles on their block after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_75839 A light pole fell and smashed the front of a vehicle near Wrightwood Ave. and Greenview Ave. after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_47494 A severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_68583 A man walks down the road amid debris on the street near Wrightwood Ave. after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_22697 Vehicles drive around a large tree branch that's on Lake Shore Drive, during a severe thunderstorm that battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_51831 Tree branches block the entrance of a home after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_72976 Part of a tree that had split at the trunk lies on a road in Oak Park, Ill., while also appearing not to have landed on a car parked on the road, after a severe storm moved through the Chicago area Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_45395 Neighbors wrap up the back window of a vehicle that was smashed out by a tree branch after a sever thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_83051 Neighbors clear a downed tree along Logan Boulevard on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, after a large storm passed through Chicago.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_01239 Neighbors use a hand saw to clear a tree blocking Kedzie Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, after a strong storm passed through the city.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_74320 The steeple at College Church in Wheaton, Ill. was toppled during a storm Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill. Church officials check out the damage from the rooftop which also left several trees in the nearby park heavily damaged.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_23286 The steeple at College Church in Wheaton, Ill. was toppled during a storm Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill. Church officials check out the damage from the rooftop which also left several trees in the nearby park heavily damaged.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_79624 A vehicle sits parked on Wrightwood Ave with tree branches draped over it, after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_72287 The steeple at College Church in Wheaton, Ill. was toppled during a storm Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill. Church officials check out the damage from the rooftop which also left several trees in the nearby park heavily damaged.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_39888 Coe College left tackle Joshua Robles clears trees with other members of the Coe College football team from campus sidewalks in Cedar Rapids after a powerful storm with straight-line winds moved through Iowa on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_77211 A truck is covered by fallen trees in Cedar Rapids after a powerful storm with straight-line winds moved through Iowa on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_60729 Two men survey the damage to their cars after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_71649 A woman steps over a fallen tree branch that's blocking a sidewalk after a severe thunderstorm battered Chicago neighborhoods, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_69313 A downed tree blocks a roadway in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. A rare storm packing 100 mph winds and with power similar to an inland hurricane swept across the Midwest on Monday, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles, causing widespread property damage, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power as it moved through Chicago and into Indiana and Michigan.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_67990 A downed tree limb blocks a roadway in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. A rare storm packing 100 mph winds and with power similar to an inland hurricane swept across the Midwest on Monday, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles, causing widespread property damage, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power as it moved through Chicago and into Indiana and Michigan.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_61346 A downed tree limb blocks a roadway in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. A rare storm packing 100 mph winds and with power similar to an inland hurricane swept across the Midwest on Monday, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles, causing widespread property damage, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power as it moved through Chicago and into Indiana and Michigan.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_28122 Drivers make their way along Lake Shore Drive as a severe storm moves through Chicago, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_06473 A tree leans against a home after a severe storm moved through the Chicago area Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_88159 A tree leans against a home after a severe storm moved through the Chicago area Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_97210 Residents remove a tree branch from a car and a downed power line after a severe storm moved through Chicago, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_37926 A man surveys the damage to his car after a severe storm moved through Chicago, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
Severe_Weather_Midwest_64987 A person surveys the damage from the roof of College Church in Wheaton, Ill., after a severe storm toppled the church steeple on the campus of Wheaton College, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A rare storm packing 100 mph winds and with power similar to an inland hurricane swept across the Midwest, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles, causing widespread property damage and leaving hundreds of thousands without power as it moved through Chicago and into Indiana and Michigan.

The storm known as a derecho lasted several hours Monday as it tore from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois, had the wind speed of a major hurricane, and likely caused more widespread damage than a normal tornado, said Patrick Marsh, science support chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

In northern Illinois, the National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 92 mph near Dixon, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Chicago, and 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 by late afternoon.

“It ramped up pretty quick” around 7 a.m. Central time in Eastern Nebraska. I don’t think anybody expected widespread winds approaching 100, 110 mph,” Marsh said.

A derecho is not quite a hurricane. It has no eye and its winds come across in a line. But the damage it is likely to do spread over such a large area is more like an inland hurricane than a quick more powerful tornado, Marsh said. He compared it to a devastating Super Derecho of 2009, which was one of the strongest on record and traveled more than 1,000 miles in 24 hours, causing $500 million in damage, widespread power outages and killing a handful of people.

“This is our version of a hurricane,” said Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini. He said Monday’s derecho will go down as one of the strongest in recent history and be one of the nation’s worst weather events of 2020.

Several people were injured and widespread property damage was reported in Marshall County in central Iowa after 100 mph winds swept through the area, said its homeland security coordinator Kim Elder.

Elder said winds blew over trees, flipped cars, downed power lines, ripped up road signs and tore roofs off buildings, some of which caught fire.

“We had quite a few people trapped in buildings and cars,” Elder said, adding that the extent of injuries was unknown and no fatalities had been reported. “We’re in life-saving mode right now.”

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer declared a civil emergency, telling residents to stay home and off the streets so that first responders could respond to calls.

MidAmerican Energy said nearly 101,000 customers in the Des Moines area were without power after the storm moved through the area. Reports from spotters filed with the National Weather Service in Des Moines had winds in excess of 70 mph.

Roof damage to homes and buildings was reported in several Iowa cities, including the roof of a hockey arena in Des Moines. Across the state, large trees fell on cars and houses. Some semi-trailers flipped over or were blown off highways.

Farmers reported that some grain bins were destroyed and fields were flattened, but the extent of damage to Iowa’s agriculture industry wasn’t immediately clear.

MidAmerican spokeswoman Tina Hoffman said downed trees made it difficult in some locations for workers to get to power lines. In some cases, power line poles were snapped off.

“It’s a lot of tree damage. Very high winds. It will be a significant effort to get through it all and get everybody back on,” Hoffman said. “It was a big front that went all the way through the state.”

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had “both significant and widespread damage throughout the city,” said public safety spokesman Greg Buelow. Tens of thousands of people in the metro area were without power.

“We have damage to homes and businesses, including siding and roofs damaged,” he said. “Trees and power lines are down throughout the entire city.”

Cedar Rapids on Monday night issued a 10 p.m. curfew that will continue until further notice, as crews worked to clean up fallen debris.

What makes a derecho worse than a tornado is how long it can hover in one place and how large an area the high winds hit, Marsh said. He said winds of 80 mph or even 100 mph can stretch for “20, 30, 40 or God forbid, 100 miles.”

What happened Monday morning was the result of unstable, super moist air that had parked for days over the northern plains and finally ramped up into a derecho.

“They are basically self-sustaining amoebas of thunderstorms,” Gensini said. “Once they get going like they did across Iowa, it’s really hard to stop these suckers.”

Derechoes, with winds of at least 58 mph, occur about once a year in the Midwest. Rarer than tornadoes but with weaker winds, derechoes produce damage over a much wider area.

The storms raced over parts of eastern Nebraska before 9 a.m. Monday, dropping heavy rains and high winds. Strong straight-line winds pushed south into areas that include Lincoln and Omaha, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Barjenbruch said.

“Once that rain-cooled air hit the ground, it surged over 100 miles, sending incredibly strong winds over the area,” Barjenbruch said.

Omaha Public Power District reported more than 55,500 customers without power in Omaha and surrounding communities.

Marsh said there’s concern about widespread power outages across several states. Add high heat, people with medical conditions that require power and the pandemic, and he said “it becomes dire pretty quickly.”

___

Borenstein reported from Kensington, Maryland. AP reporter David Pitt in Des Moines and Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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