Iowa DOT answers the call for debris removal following devastating derecho

CR2 from RandyAs if a global pandemic wasn’t enough this year, on Aug. 10, a windstorm of catastrophic proportions hit Iowa. Iowa Department of Transportation forces mobilized to the impacted areas within hours of the storm. Iowa DOT crews from more than 50 garages around the state hauled tens of thousands of truckloads of debris from nearly 40 cities and towns for the last few weeks. Almost every day, hundreds of DOTers used our trucks, loaders, excavators, and other equipment to get Iowa neighborhoods cleared of debris so people can begin the rebuilding process on damaged homes and other structures.

Prior to Aug. 10, few of us had ever heard the term “derecho.” We are all now very aware of the damage and destruction this “land hurricane” can cause.


Derecho path
National Weather Service map of the Derecho path and wind speeds


Wind speeds
Winds speeds as reported by KGAN CBS 2 in Cedar Rapids

Our field forces have mobilized from around the state to focus on nearly 40 hard-hit communities since Aug. 10. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Cedar Rapids-uprooted tree
Tree damage like this was widespread of a large portion of the state.

Eastern Iowa, and especially the Cedar Rapids area, were devastated by the derecho. But, in true Iowa fashion, our crews quickly got to work clearing debris.

Jim Schoebelen, District 6 engineer, said, “I’m so very proud of the way our folks stepped up to deal with the disaster.  Their dedication and willingness to volunteer for the long hours of work is especially impressive given that many of them had damage and no power at their own homes.  The timely and unselfish response from other districts to come in and help is much appreciated.  We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of positive feedback and gratitude from residents and officials and I think that will help grow the positive opinion of the department."

Iowa DOT clean up efforts in  Madrid
Iowa 210 through Madrid was littered with debris from downed trees

District 1 in central Iowa was another hard-hit area. In an email to District 1 Staff, Brad Fleming, the assistant director of Bureau of Maintenance, said, “Just wanted to pass on that Joyce Flinn from Iowa Homeland Security just spoke with us about her visit with the Governor to the city of Madrid yesterday.  All of the city officials were very appreciative of DOT’s efforts in the community and specifically spoke of the professionalism and efforts of Jeff Vander Zwaag, the highway maintenance supervisor in Boone and Jefferson. Please pass along the sincere thanks from all parties involved to Jeff for a job well done.”


Clean up post
The Iowa DOT’s response to this disaster has been overwhelmingly positive. On one Facebook post about clean-up efforts was shared 448 times, reached more nearly 92,000 people, and garnered nearly 450 comments as of Aug. 27.



Madrid was one of the hardest-hit central Iowa communities. One of our own, Christina Meeker, engineering office assistant 2 in Ames maintenance, lives in Madrid and posted this to Yammer.

Christina Meeker post

Thank you comments poured in from other social media pages as well.

Deb stanbro

Crystal adams

William watts

And possibly the best comment of all.

Fave comment

Thank you to all of our employees who left their own homes and families in this disaster to help others. You make us so proud to be DOT.

I am a 39 year retire from the Cedar Rapids Construction Office. All of the DOT people did a fantastic job.

So proud and grateful for fantastic neighbors, friends and family. Proud of Slater Maintenance Staff and the DOT. Heard many comments about the DOT presence in Slater - THANK YOU!!!

Rodney spent 41 years at the DOT and know he was smiling in heaven and not surprised at the response.

I'm so proud of my former employer, DOT MAINTENANCE SHOPS, coming to the rescue statewide to the many cities, SMALL and large, that were hit the worst in Iowa.

My late husband, Jack Gordon, worked out of the Ames maintenance shop for 30 years.

15 years in highway maintenance like the work done by all the HERO employees in this humongous hurricane cleanup.

Last 15 years were on the District 1 PAINT CREW painting the centerlines/edgelines in central Iowa.

I was the Ames resident maintenance engr.'s secretary for 14 WINTERS. We don't call them years; we call them WINTERS in highway maintenance! LOL ;)

So glad they have come to the rescue then and continuously NOW.

I worked for the DOT 28.5 years of my almost 31 years with the STATE.

KUDOS to all those involved in this massive cleanup with your unselfish acts of LONG, EXHAUSTIVE hours since Aug. 10, 2020.

When we were growing up, we were told about the winter of 1936; now 2020 will be talked about to our grandkids and great grandkids for coronavirus, covid19, and DERECHO/lane hurricane hitting IOWA for 1st and hopefully last time!

Betty Gordon, Ames

So proud of all that Iowans do for each other. My applause to the Iowa DOT!

Awesome job everyone! Iowa proud!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Have a comment?


©  Iowa Department of Transportation.  All rights reserved.