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People in Benton County still feeling the effects of the derecho one year later

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:29 PM CDT
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BELLE PLAINE, Iowa (KCRG) - One year later, many people in Benton County are still feeling the effects of the derecho. They say it’s hard to find contractors to fix their homes, and dealing with insurance has been a headache.

Benton County Emergency Management estimates more than $30 million in market value lost from the derecho.

At Central Lutheran School in Newhall, crews are building a new cafeteria area after the previous one was demolished during the derecho. Crews hope to finish the cafeteria sometime this year. Several teachers were inside the building when the storm hit.

“For me it was huge, I’ve always been afraid of storms,” Jessica Fry, a teacher, said. “I was very close to a tornado when I was younger. I’ve had anxiety about storms anyway, so that just made it worse for me.”

“I’ve never been afraid of storms,” Ally Getka, another teacher, said. “I used to like them, and now I absolutely hate them.”

In Norway, St. Michael’s Catholic Church is still fenced off after the derecho. The storm blew the steeple off the bell tower. The fire marshal says they can’t hold service there until they get handle rails.

“We don’t have a secondary entrance. So you know if we had a church full of people and an emergency came up, there’s only one entrance and it would be a real safety issue,” Father Craig Steimel, the church’s pastor, said. “We’re anxious to get into church and get all this finished, and put 2020 behind us.”

Steimel said they hope to have the church back open in the fall.

Homes all across Benton County are still showing signs of damage. Tarps are still covering many roofs, and siding damage remains on many homes.

“I’ve had people come and ask me for help,” Stephen Beck, the city administrator for Belle Plaine, said. “I’ve called insurance companies, I’ve gotten money that weren’t gonna get anything.”

Beck said he is dealing with his own issues. He hasn’t been able to live at his home since the derecho.

“Shingles were ripped off, it rained inside the house, mold started growing, the plasters falling down, the floors are ruined, devastating,” Beck said. “We lived inside an airport hangar all winter, it was col. I have two little kiddos that live with me.”

Beck is taking legal action to get his home fixed.

“I’m gonna take it to a lawsuit to get money to fix my house,” Beck said.

The Benton County Disaster Recovery Coalition is still helping people with financial assistance for derecho damage. People can call 319-241-5121 to request an application. The coalition is also planning cleanup days for people who still need help removing tree debris. People needing volunteers should contact Linda Klopping, Van Horne City Clerk at 319-228-8238.

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