Tips to prepare physically and emotionally ahead of forecasted strong winds across Iowa

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 12:22 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - For those who lived through the August 2020 derecho, the forecast of strong winds for Wednesday may be bringing up some feelings of anxiety or fear. Experts say it’s important to be prepared, and take care of your mental health if the forecast is causing strong feelings.

People across the state, in all different positions and occupations, are discussing the forecast and taking precautionary steps to ensure they’re ready.

Tom Casey, president of Home Town Restyling based in Hiawatha, says his crews will handle the weather differently depending on what projects they’re working on, but that they’re planning to take steps in advance to be ready.

“Typical practice for us is to clean up nightly on the job site,” Casey said. “In this particular case through, I’ve asked the guys to make sure the trash cans are put in the trailers. Normally, it’s not necessary to strap materials together to make sure it doesn’t blow away. We are looking at doing that.”

The City of Cedar Rapids is advising people to put away or secure things that can blow away, like trash cans and Christmas decorations. The city’s December 2021 monthly preparedness topic is High Winds, and that program gave tips to residents discussing how to prepare in advance of a weather event involving high winds, as well as what to do during and afterwards.

Some of those include taking shelter inside a sturdy building, and keeping an updated emergency kit handy in your home. Before a high wind event begins, it states it can be helpful to trim back tree branches away from your home and power lines, and secure loose gutters.

Phillip Platz, Public Services Communications Specialist for the city of Cedar Rapids, says there are other resources people can take advantage of as well, including the city’s recently formed Neighborhood P.A.C.T. emergency-preparedness initiative.

The program was formed in response to the 2020 derecho, aiming to improve communication between the city and the community in the case of an emergency. It provides details on helping people make a plan in advance, and offers ways to communicate and receive information during an emergency.

Platz says he also talked with the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department about what they expect to see going into Wednesday.

“The derecho kind of came through and did a natural pruning of all the city’s trees. And so they expect to see less in terms of tree damage after an event like this, because we had a major event that took out a lot of the branches that might have fallen in a more, a smaller event,” says Platz.

The derecho impacted many across Eastern Iowa, on both physical and emotional levels. Kara Grafft is an Education Liaison with Four Oaks. She says the impacts of a traumatic event like the derecho can linger after the event.

“It came in waves for people. Obviously, it was getting through the crisis period of time where resources were a major concern,” says Grafft. “Now, as more time has passed, it’s more managing the after-effects. The emotions that were attached to that maybe that during the intensity, we maybe didn’t have time to address those emotions, and now they’re kind of presenting in different ways.”

Grafft says it can help to have an advanced awareness of similar events, and check in with your emotions.

“If I’m hearing the wind outside or I’m seeing something that’s bringing up any emotions connected to that just validate hey, I’m feeling nervous or I’m scared right now, just kind of acknowledging and validating what’s coming up for you,” says Grafft.

She says it can also be helpful to extend support to family and friends who may be struggling.

“If you do see someone who could be struggling or behaviors in kids or something like that, they might be feeling some type of relationship with the weather that could bring back feelings of what it was like to be in the derecho, and just giving people grace,” she said.

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