Mother Nature throws haymaker at northeast Iowa



Mother Nature throws haymaker at northeast Iowa


Chris DeBack


Thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds raged through northeast Iowa on Wednesday, July 19. Damage done by the storm led Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to issue a disaster proclamation while on a flight to China.

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg visited Clermont and McGregor on Friday, July 21, to view the damage done by the storm.

In Clermont on July 19, straight-line winds were clocked at 80 mph, according to Lisa Roberts, Fayette County Emergency Management coordinator. Those winds knocked over trees and took out power lines, leaving much of the town in the dark Wednesday evening. However, all power was restored to Clermont by Friday evening.

Trees toppled over on many of Clermont’s streets with a few even damaging some homes and garages. A house on Spring Street lost its garage to a fallen tree, but the garage probably saved the house from a similar fate. Both town cemeteries saw many of their trees uprooted and toppled over, damaging gravestones.

Rural Clermont took a beating with numerous barns and sheds knocked over by the high winds.  

West Union saw torrential rain with some trees at the Fayette County Courthouse and Fayette County Fairgrounds coming down from high winds. The rural areas took the brunt of the storm with trees down all over Ron and Joan Schroeder’s property near Auburn.

At approximately 11 a.m. on Friday, July 21, Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg met with Jeanine Niedert, Clermont city clerk; Jim Matt, Clermont mayor; Randy Wiedenhoff, Clermont fire chief; Fayette County Sheriff Marty Fisher; and Michael Bergan, House District 55 representative. Gregg had viewed the damage in McGregor just prior to coming to Clermont. He met with the folks in Clermont as torrential rain continued to pour.

Gregg asked the sheriff and others questions about the damage sustained by the town. He noted how nice it was to see that cleanup was pretty well in hand by the time he had arrived. He was told by Matt that eight different fire departments, West Union, Oelwein, Elgin, Clermont, Maynard, Fayette, Hawkeye and Wadena, came down Wednesday night after the storm to help start the cleanup.

After the brief meeting, Gregg jumped into Jim Matt’s truck and was given a tour of the damage. It had stopped raining by that point. The group stopped at both cemeteries in town, which hadn’t been cleaned up yet, and Skip-A-Way Campground & Resort.

“It is humbling to see the power of Mother Nature,” Acknowledged Gregg. “You see some of the trees and the size of them uprooted and think about the power it takes to do that. We went out to see campgrounds and cemeteries to get a sense of what the rest of the town looked liked. I am so impressed with the way the community has come together to get as much of it cleaned up as they have. What an impressive community to come together like this.”

Mother Nature wasn’t done as more rain swept through northeast Iowa on Friday, July 21. This led to flooding on the Volga and LIttle Wapsipinicon rivers, among others.

The torrential rain that came throughout the day on Friday led to flooding in Clayton and Fayette counties. The Volga River crested at approximately 14 feet on Saturday morning, but not before taking out Frey Bridge on Acorn Road by Wadena. The town of Volga was evacuated. Sumner found itself underwater Saturday after the Little Wapsipinicon flooded.

Klock’s Island Park and the baseball field in Fayette were closed when they were flooded by the Volga River. There was $75,000 in damage in Fayette with 80 percent of homes having water in their basement, Roberts said. She went on to add that water went over the road on Highway 3 in four different places and Maynard saw many residents with water in their basements.

Roberts noted that last week it rained approximately 8 inches throughout Fayette County and approximately 10½  to 11 inches in Sumner. She said that Fayette County suffered approximately $2 million in damage, and that doesn't include any damage estimates to crops in the county.

Iowa Homeland Security was in Clermont on Tuesday, July 25, to assess the damage done by the July 19 storm. FEMA should be touring the county later in the week.

Roberts explained that final, more concrete damage estimates should come after the FEMA visit. She is hopeful that the federal government will proclaim it a disaster area, which will open up federal aid to town and county governments.

Because Governor Reynolds proclaimed Fayette, Allamakee, Clayton, and Winneshiek counties as disaster areas, those residents affected by the storm can apply for the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program that can pay up to $5,000 to cover losses and damage for those who meet the income eligibility requirements.



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