MDS coordinates early response in Iowa after windstorm

LITITZ, Pa. — In the wake of a powerful Aug. 10-11 derecho — a straight-line windstorm — that tore through the Midwest, Early Response Teams from Mennonite Disaster Service are helping people clean up, remove damaged trees and cope with feelings of isolation. As of Aug. 19, power still had not been restored in much of the state.

Winds of more than 100 mph tore off roofs, collapsed walls, upended trees, demolished barns and left thousands of residents sweltering in the summer heat.

Hard-hit areas include Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Des Moines, Ames and Shellsburg, with other areas still being assessed.

MDS Early Response Teams are made up of 14-16 volunteers who drive to disaster sites each day to help people most in need. They have been working to clear downed trees and heavy debris for farmers and churches, using track hoes, skid steers and grapples.

Residents are struggling to save frozen food, and many have already been forced to throw away hundreds of dollars of groceries. MDS is loaning generators and freezer space to some.

MDS executive director Kevin King said volunteers from out of state aren’t needed at this point, but they may be in the future.

“Access to the area is very limited, and there is no place for out-of-town volunteers to stay,” he said. “Our teams are reporting that debris, road damage and highway closures are causing travel delays.”

MDS is working with local long-term recovery groups in the hardest hit areas to determine the need for long-term recovery projects, as well as how to respond safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working closely with emergency managers in the most affected areas,” King said. “Please be in solidarity with the people of Iowa with your donations and your prayers as we plan our response. Your donations also help support our Early Response Teams as they work long hours with a lot of heavy lifting on the ground.”

To donate funds, visit

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!