City's quick first step on storm was impressive


Thursday’s derecho that raced through Lee County, blowing up Montrose and Keokuk, while doing a substantial amount of damage in Fort Madison and outlying areas, was something close to evil.
A larger swath of devastation rolled through central Iowa several years ago, but this was probably the most substantial storm damage we’ve seen in many decades. A generational storm.
I don’t have a garage and as I watched the skies turn gray and then dark gray and then blacken out my windows at about 10:50 a.m. Thursday I couldn’t help but go open the door and step out.
I tried to get a couple phone photos from the deck of my porch and saw large branches – large branches blowing horizontally north on 6th Street above the houses.
“What the hell?”
The driving rain, wind, and lightning pushed me back inside.
I went to the side window and watched parts of the trees on my block fall and almost hit my truck.
Enough is enough. That F150 is better off moving around. So I ran out with my gray backpack containing my cameras and started shooting, driving around looking for pictures.
My first thought was Old Settler’s Park because storms usually have some impact there.
An arboreous warzone.
You couldn’t even see the playground equipment that was almost buried under branches. Trees split due to wind and several with lightning patterns on the bark.
Avenue F was completed blocked by fallen trees and branches.
I drove through some of it to get pictures of that and then headed around Fort Madison. Trees were laying on homes and branches were dangling from power lines.
But then I saw what all communities want to see. The things that give us the warmies as residents of Fort Madison.
Fire Chief Joey Herren out in the storm (without a jacket I might add) talking with residents of homes with heavy damage and trees laying on lines. Fort Madison Police Captain Jamie Carle was out of his cruiser pulling branches off the street to allow motorists, like me, to get through even though being on the streets wasn’t the wisest move at that time.I started following the four FMFD fire trucks that were out on calls and investigating damage. I followed one back to Old Settlers Park, where two of the firefighters were cutting branches on Avenue F with a chainsaw, trying to open up roads, while city crews pulled the branches out of the way into a waiting trailer.
Public Works crews drove dump trucks and end loaders around the city picking up the heavy debris.
At one point, power was out across the city. Mine was restored at about 6 p.m. My internet didn’t come back on until Saturday morning.
That sucked because I had to do Pen City Current off a mobile hotspot, which wasn’t nearly as fast as our home internet.
I also couldn’t stream TV so I had to break my binge watching of The Rookie.
I get that through Hulu and it’s a decent series. Those are so hard to find anymore. I typically have television on in the background to help balance my brain. I know it’s weird, but silence can be deafening to me at times and I look to the comfort of the television in the background.
I started calling around to get information from officials that are responsible for getting us up and running as a community or collective communities.
Jason Dinwiddie told me there were no confirmed tornadoes, but there were straightline winds that were above 80 mph consistently and possibly 110 to 120 mph gusts.
“I can’t go 50 feet without running into something bad,” Dinwiddie said.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in Montrose."
Keokuk got banged around pretty heavily, as well, and some areas were still without power on Saturday.
I've talked with friends who are still without electricity and internet Satuday afternoon, which can be very frustrating for sure. I offered laundry services and a place to get internet and some cooler air, but people are resilient.
That resliency was in full display Thursday and Friday into the weekend. Even with a holiday weekend upon us, our resources were hard at work getting things back to normal as soon as possible.
Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said he was proud of how quickly staff got to putting the city back together. We agree. It gave us all the feels to see a city plan coming to bear on a pretty large problem.
Good work to everyone. Also good work to Jacob Goldstick, Doug Frenz, and the team at Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course. The course is in pretty darned good shape this year. I had my best round ever this weekend, so you know that course was in good shape. But that's Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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