Community Rallies Around Unincorporated Town After Heavy Derecho Damage

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IRA, Iowa — Chainsaws and generators serve as a derecho soundtrack across Iowa. “I don’t think there is a tree in town that isn’t laying on top of something whether it is a car or a building or a power line. It looks like a tornado went through,” said Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma.

As city officials assess damage, unincorporated towns like Ira in Jasper County don’t have that luxury. “We don’t have the city crews and don’t have all that so we depend on the county,” said Connie Wright, who has lived in Ira for 60 years.

Talsma put out a call for help on social media in Ira. “We are scrambling for resources. Our county guys are busy cleaning up road ditches and still clearing power lines. We just don’t have the resources,” said Talsma.

The surrounding communities rallied Sunday. “What looked like an impossible task for a small town without some help,” said Doug Cupples, another Jasper County Supervisor.

Cars were smashed and residential property damaged by large trees. Wright said, “Our heart just drops to your stomach and I was like oh my God, it is unbelievable the destruction.”

The roof of the town’s church was obliterated. “The roof just lifted off and it’s down in the parking lot and filled with water running in,” said Wright.

Still without power or internet since Monday, Wright was pleasantly surprised to see crowds clearing debris when she woke up. “It does show we do band and help each other and it’s been proven over and over again,” she said.

Iowans from near and far used their trucks and tractors to help Ira residents. Talsma said, “It’s neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. Pooling what resources and assets they have to come together any way they can.”

Smaller counties like Jasper are stretched thin and heavy machinery is hard to come by, so Patriot Excavation from Chariton, over an hour away to the south, lent a helping hand. “The Bible says ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and I think that’s what people are doing. They are showing up. I mean, they are from another area and spending their money, their gas and their time,” said Cupples.

Damage in a city big or small, Iowans are responding to the call. “Showing that interest in our little town of Ira, so we are very thankful for the help and the support,” said Wright.

Jasper County Supervisors say additional volunteer help is needed in Colfax, Mingo and Newton.

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