Our Derecho 2020 Story

I mean really. Who had “Iowa Hurricane” on their bingo card for 2020?

I’m going to acknowledge that my family and I, in north Coralville, are really, really lucky.

Our power was only out for 15 hours—from about 12:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon to 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Our deep freeze full of quarantine meals (by which I mean, frozen dinners and Jack’s pizzas) was okay. Our only loss was a plastic playhouse that honestly, my children had outgrown anyway.

plastic playhouse in pieces
Luckily, the only house I own that was knocked down

I know that many of our neighbors are not so lucky. 

I work at Kirkwood Community College, which closed Monday afternoon and doesn’t plan to open again until next Monday, due to extensive storm damage.

The play my husband, Matt Falduto, wrote and directed, What We May Be, was supposed to debut over Zoom this weekend. This week was “tech week”—usually a week for the actors to get used to being in the actual performance space; this week was going to be the actors getting used to having people watching from their living rooms. That’s been pushed back a week, and will now debut on August 21. Tickets are available, if you are interested. The actors and their families may have no power, no internet, and are dealing with trauma.

Here’s my derecho story:

On Monday afternoon at about 12:30 p.m., I was eating a salad in my car in a Wendy’s parking lot (because I’m not comfortable dining inside and I didn’t want to eat at my desk) when I looked west and saw that the sky was suddenly very, very dark. I’m a lifelong Iowan and I’ve only seen that sort of noontime darkness a handful of time. I drove back to the Kirkwood Iowa City campus, which is about a 3-minute drive. By the time I got there, the wind had picked up a fierce amount and practically pinned me in my car when I tried to open the door. 

I searched the closest office when I came in the building, but it was deserted. I found everyone sheltered in a stairwell. Let me tell you, it’s hard to keep 6-feet away from people and also shelter in place. People did their best, they really did; they sat far away from one another, up and down the stairs, and some people sheltered in the bathroom.

I texted my daughters—I had been trying to decide if I should text and then leg it for Kirkwood or vice versa, and I’m glad I chose the order I did, so that I was in the building before the derecho truly hit. 

My 16-year-old daughter and her little sister had been out driving when the same storm startled them into rushing home. They remarked on many landmarks as they drove by. In a bit of foreshadowing, they joked about the Hardee’s restaurant only having one star on its sign. By the time I drove home at 2:30 p.m. that Hardee’s sign was knocked down.

view of Coralville Hardee's from across the street
Coralville Hardee’s missing its marquee sign

My oldest daughter had been in our garage cleaning out her car when she suddenly saw a neighbor sprint by, and then the wind started whipping her hair around (our neighbor is studying to be a meteorologist and had been watching the cloud shelf from our yard). She knew she should hoof it inside, grab our dog, head to the basement, and hope her sisters arrived home soon (they did).

My husband Matt was sheltering at Kirkwood’s main campus in Cedar Rapids.

man holding 6 foot long tree branch
Matt with one of our more significant downed branches

We’re all safe. We’re all okay.

We took a family walk on Monday night  to check out our neighborhood in Coralville—lots of downed and uprooted trees, some of them on people’s houses (but a lot of them NOT on people’s houses). Reports are trickling in from Cedar Rapid, from Cedar Rapidians who have driven out of town to find cellular service—the word “apocalyptic” has been used.

No tree canopy. No power, possibly for days. No cellular service.

People driving to Waterloo or to Coralville to find gas for their cars and generators. The start date for Cedar Rapids schools has been pushed back indefinitely.

tree fallen on a house in Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids house damage

On Monday night we lived like pioneers—well, pioneers with flashlights. We played charades as the sun went down, eventually getting to the point where we had to say instead of mime “four words” because no one could see our fingers, and then we read books and wandered off to bed by 10 p.m. 

We were heartened to hear our house hum back to life with electricity in the early morning. We still had no internet or cell service, so we drove to the Coralville library parking lot to make phone calls and check on people (my mom in Dallas Center, which is near Des Moines: neighbors with power are doing her laundry and storing some food in their freezer. My boss in Cedar Rapids: it’s really, really bad. My friends in Des Moines: we can heat you up some coffee on our camp stove).

tree split in two
Tree damage in Cedar Rapids

We’re sending our best wishes to our neighbors who are still without power, without internet, who have storm damage too extensive to live in their houses. Come to Coralville — we can get you a hot meal. You can use the wifi from the library parking lot. You can get gas if you’re willing to wait. You can fill up a bucket of water from our hose.

I really wish I could invite you inside our house — but, of course, we’re also still in the middle of a pandemic.

If you are looking for ways to help locally, consider making a donation to the disaster relief fund through The United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties.

I mean really. Who had “Iowa Hurricane” on their bingo card for 2020?


Sharon Falduto is a Central Iowa native who came to University of Iowa in 1991 and essentially never left the area. She is involved in local community theater, notably as one of the co-founders of Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre. She has also directed children's plays with the Young Footliters group. Sharon works in with English Language Learners in a support position at Kirkwood Community College.. She lives in Coralville with her husband, Matt, and three daughters Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.


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