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Derecho storm victims still on road to recovery

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:21 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Lawns covered in debris, trees down, and families, mostly refugees, living in tents was the scene outside of the Cedar Terrace Apartments on Cedar Rapids southwest side following the derecho.

One year later, homes remain uninhabitable, but rebuilding efforts are underway.

“We still see some need,” Hilare Tshombe, a refugee who helped victims following the derecho, said.

Tshombe assisted the Catherine McCauley Center in helping refugee families, and he still is.

“The biggest need was a home, and having to move into apartments, plus food,” Tshombe said.

Language barriers are an obstacle when applying for programs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and homeowners insurance. Some victims are still recovering from injuries.

“There’s a lady that broke her ankle when she was moving out, and now she can not work,” Tshombe said.

“For those that were injured from the storm, they haven’t been able to go back to work because of their medical condition,” Abby Freese, the resource navigator at the Catherine McCauley Center, said.

Freese said it provided storm victims with temporary shelter while helping them find homes. She said despite the chaos, one positive was being able to keep the community together.

“People who were displaced from their homes and needed to come into the shelter if they were living in the same apartment complex, they still had that community connection when they came into the shelter,” Freese said.

KCRG-TV9 also checked in with residents at the Oak Village Senior Residences in Marion, another community affected after the storm.

Residents declined to go on camera due to fear of eviction, but said that damages to the building have been fixed. However, they say little effort has been put into preparing for another storm like the derecho by management. That includes still not having emergency lights in the hall and stairwells that will last longer than 4 hours or a generator.

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